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Table 5 Peer-reviewed meta-analyses and reviews of skills-based SEL interventions

From: Fostering socio-emotional learning through early childhood intervention

Citation Type Interventions Sample Measured outcomes Major findings Major study limitations
Joseph and Strain (2003) Systematic review Comprehensive social-emotional curricula for children ages 3–6 Eight empirical studies and two studies under investigation “Social competence”, including positive and problem behaviors
Used nine criteria to determine “probability of efficacious adoption” (e.g., treatment fidelity, evidence across racial groups)
Low levels of evidence (based on the nine criteria) of beneficial effects on social competence for four of the studies, medium levels of evidence for two studies, and high levels of evidence for two studies Several studies were conducted several decades ago
Several studies focused primarily on problem behaviors
Many included studies had high levels of bias
Many studies used single measures and single ratings
McCabe and Altamura (2011) Systematic review Intervention programs targeting social, behavioral, and/or self-regulatory skills in preschool-aged children and comprehensive prevention and intervention programs 10 empirical studies Parent and teacher reports, direct assessment, and observation of SEL outcomes (emotion regulation, expression, skill use, problem-solving) Authors reported positive social, emotional, or behavioral effects for most programs reviewed Some studies reviewed focused exclusively on problem behaviors
Limitations of studies not discussed
Did not clearly distinguish between school vs. home-based programs
Barton et. al. (2014) Systematic review Classroom and parenting social-emotional programs for young children 10 classroom curricula and 8 parenting interventions focused on social-emotional development “Social-emotional competence” and “behavioral outcomes”
Used nine criteria to determine “probability of efficacious adoption” (e.g., treatment fidelity, evidence across racial/ethnic groups)
Low levels of evidence (based on the nine criteria) of beneficial effects on social competence for four of the studies, medium levels of evidence for four studies, and high levels of evidence for two studies Many included studies had high levels of bias, per the review authors
Many included studies used single measures and single ratings
Several studies focused on reducing “antisocial behavior”
Several studies focused on children older than preschool age (e.g., first step to success, one of programs rated most efficacious, targets kindergarteners and other early primary grades)
Luo et. al. (2020) Systematic review and meta-analysis Classroom-wide social-emotional interventions for preschoolers 39 empirical studies (10,646 child participants) “Social competence”, “emotional competence”, and “challenging behavior”. Also coded research designs and nine domains of study-level risk of bias Among studies with sufficient child outcome information to calculate effect sizes: 30 studies examined intervention effects on social competence and 12 examined effects on emotional competence. Moderate effects were found in both domains (social: g = 0.42, 95% CI = [0.28, 0.56]; z = 5.77, p < 0.001; k = 34; emotional: g = 0.33, 95% CI = [0.10, 0.56]; z = 2.85, p = 0.004; k = 14). However, there was significant heterogeneity across studies. Interventions with family components had larger effect sizes for social competence (Q(1) = 7.03, p = 0.08) than those that did not include family members Did not investigate the grey literature
Unable to investigate possible variations in treatment effects due to clustering
Unable to conduct multivariate meta-regression analysis, to investigate potential interactions between covariates
Murano et. al. (2020 Meta-analysis Universal and targeted SEL interventions for preschoolers 48 empirical studies (15,498 child participants) “Social and emotional skills” and “problem behaviors” Both universal and targeted interventions were associated with improvements in overall social and emotional skills (n = 37, g = 0.34 and n = 13, g = 0.44, respectively). There was significant heterogeneity in effect sizes among universal programs. Meta-regression analyses indicated that 83% of this heterogeneity was attributable to intervention type Limited coverage of the grey literature
Unable to investigate possible variations in treatment effects due to clustering