Children with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) are at significantly increased risk for a host of negative outcomes in later childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. These outcomes can include delinquency, early and risky sexual behavior, poor academic and occupational adjustment, poor interpersonal relations, and increased risk for various mental disorders. Effective treatment for ODD has typically been based on a social learning-based ?parent management training? (PMT) model. Despite strong evidence for PMT, it is not effective with all children, with up to one third failing to show reliable and sustained improvement. Having limited prosocial emotions (e.g., lack of guilt and empathy, callous use of others) appears to be one factor that mitigates the effects of traditional PMT. Children with ODD with limited prosocial emotions present with more severe conduct problems and have poorer behavioral outcomes. It is therefore important to develop empirically based methods to enhance the efficacy of ?traditional? PMT for those children with ODD and limited prosocial emotions. Recent meta-analytic research indicates that one key component of successful family based intervention approaches involves teaching parents skills related to emotional communication. Given evidence that children with ODD with limited prosocial emotions have deficits in the awareness/recognition of emotion and in empathy, incorporating an emotion-focused intervention (which has not been a focus of PMT) into traditional PMT should enhance outcomes for these children. Consistent with the aims of the R34 mechanism, the primary goal of this application is to develop and test the feasibility of a brief emotion-coaching (EC) intervention in combination with an evidence-based PMT program, Helping the Noncompliant Child (HNC;Forehand &McMahon, 1981;McMahon &Forehand, 2003), for use with clinic-referred children with ODD who have limited prosocial emotions.
The Specific Aims are to: 1) develop and refine an empirically based combined HNC-EC parenting intervention to reduce CP in children with ODD and limited prosocial emotions;and 2) assess the viability of a later clinical trial by a) pilot testing the newly developed HNC-EC intervention compared to HNC alone with mothers and their 3-7 year-old children who have been referred for treatment of significant levels of oppositional behavior (and who also have limited prosocial emotions) in a community mental health center setting, and b) establishing the treatment feasibility (family and therapist-level feasibility, treatment fidelity, participant satisfaction) and research feasibility of the HNC-EC intervention compared to HNC alone. While pilot studies should not be used to estimate effect sizes, (Kraemer et al., 2006;Sherrill et al., 2009), we will explore trends in the data to facilitate consideration of possible designs for later statistical modeling in a larger trial. Promising findings would form the basis of a research proposal for a randomized clinical outcome study comparing HNC alone and in combination with an EC intervention for children with ODD and limited prosocial emotions. Should this combined intervention (which is focused on improving outcomes in this hard-to-treat population) prove to be effective, it will be one of the first interventions targeting known developmental mechanisms related to limited prosocial emotions in children. Given the increased likelihood that children with an early onset of CP and limited prosocial emotions are at increased likelihood of multiple negative outcomes extending into adulthood, at extraordinary social and economic cost, improving response rates to PMT (which is a low-cost, low-restrictiveness intervention) will have substantial public health impact.
The proposed research will focus on the development of a brief emotion-coaching (EC) parenting program (which directly targets child emotion awareness/recognition and affective empathy), that will be combined with a well-established parent management training program (Helping the Noncompliant Child;HNC) for treating oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) in children who also have limited prosocial emotions (e.g., lack of guilt and empathy, callous use of others). After developing and refining the EC parenting intervention, we will pilot test the combined HNC-EC intervention compared to HNC alone with a small group of mothers and their 3-7 year-old children who have been referred for treatment of ODD (and who also have limited prosocial emotions) in a community mental health center setting. In addition, we will establish the feasibility, treatment fidelity, and participant satisfaction of the HNC-EC intervention compared to HNC alone.