The Effect of Social Problem Solving Ability on the Adjustment of Third-Grade Children

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Many children experience interpersonal problems and frequently these children lack the necessary skills to successfully resolve such issues. Social problem-solving training programs have recently evolved as a means for developing specific cognitive problem-solving skills. The primary question investigated in this study was whether or not problem-solving ability affects adjustment as measured by teacher ratings. The effect of problem-solving training on specific problem-solving skills was also assessed. Children were randomly selected and assigned to either a problem-solving program or a career awareness control group. The treatment and control conditions were administered by 10 elementary school counselors in 10 different elementary schools. A small group format was used with eight students per group. One hundred and fifty-seven subjects, 78 experimental and 79 control, participated in the study. All students were posttested on a set of 17 dependent variables. Twelve of these were problem-solving variables (conflict identification; feeling identification; goal identification; quantity of alternatives; alternative decision; quality of chosen alternative; quantity of consequences; quantity of means-end steps; quality of means-end steps; persistency; quantity of problem-solving steps; and sequencing of problem solving steps) and five were adjustment variables. The adjustment variables correspond to the five factors of the Health Resources Inventory: gutsy; good student; rules; peer sociability; and frustration tolerance. A significant multivariate F (p < .001) for treatment suggests that problem-solving training had a significant impact on the set of dependent variables. Additional univariate analysis of variance results for each dependent variable reflected a significant difference between experimentals and controls on seven of the problem-solving variables and two of the adjustment variables. The multivariate F tests for sex and interaction were not significant. These results suggest that social problem-solving ability can significantly affect the adjustment of third-grade children. The effect of problem-solving training on problem-solving skills supports this result. This study also discusses these two sets of results in relationship to the findings of prior research and addresses implications for future research and practice.