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Date of Award


Access Type

Campus Access

Document type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

School Psychology

First Advisor

Sara A. Whitcomb

Second Advisor

William J. Matthews

Third Advisor

Richard P. Halgin

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Elementary Education and Teaching | Special Education and Teaching


The current study examined the effect of Strong Start Grades K-2 (Merrell, Parisi, & Whitcomb, 2007), a social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum, among a sample of 24 kindergarten and first grade students identified by their teachers as needing additional support with behavioral and social skills in school. The current study used a quasi-experimental design with within-subjects and between-groups comparisons (Heppner, Kivlighan, & Wampold, 1992) to evaluate the effects of the Strong Start social and emotional learning curriculum. The intervention consisted of staggered curriculum implementation across four classrooms, whereby students were assigned by classroom to either the treatment or waitlist conditions. The classroom teachers implemented the 10 lessons of Strong Start as part of their classroom instruction. Results indicated that Strong Start was implemented with moderate integrity and there were significant within-subject effects for increases in students' emotion knowledge and decreases in students' problem behaviors associated with exposure to the curriculum. However, no significant effects were found between intervention and waitlist groups for increase in emotion knowledge and decreases in problem behaviors. Teachers and students indicated strong user satisfaction and social validity of the Strong Start curriculum. Limitations of this study as well as directions for future research are discussed.