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Program Profile: Fast Track

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 10, 2011

Program Summary

A comprehensive, long-term prevention program that aims to prevent chronic and severe conduct problems in high-risk children from 1st through 10th grades. The program is rated Promising. Participants in the treatment group were significantly less likely than control group participants to exhibit evidence of serious conduct problems and had higher social cognition. While parenting behaviors improved there were no differences between the groups in academic progress and child social competence.

Program Description

Program Goals

Fast Track is a comprehensive, long-term prevention program that aims to prevent chronic and severe conduct problems in high-risk children. It is based on the view that antisocial behavior stems from the interaction of multiple influences such as school, home, and the individual. The main goals of the program are to increase communication and bonds between and among these three domains; to enhance children’s social, cognitive, and problem-solving skills; to improve peer relationships; and ultimately to decrease disruptive behavior at home and in school.


Target Population

The program targets children identified in kindergarten for disruptive behavior and poor peer relations. The program can be implemented in rural and urban areas for boys and girls of varying ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and family compositions.


Program Components

Fast Track extends from 1st through 10th grades, with particularly intensive interventions during the transitions at school entry and from elementary to middle school. The primary intervention is designed for all youths in a school setting. The PATHS (for Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies) curriculum was revised for use in the Fast Track program. In addition to this universal intervention, Fast Track includes an intervention component for children considered high risk. This includes academic tutoring, parent groups, child social-skills training, and home visits. The most intense phase of intervention took place in the first grade year for each of three successive cohorts.


Program Theory

The developmental model guiding this project indicates that an effective prevention program would address classroom, school risk, and family risk factors, including communication between parents and schools.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1

Conduct Problems

The evaluation by the Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group (2002) found that at the end of grade 3, participants in the treatment group were significantly less likely than control group participants to exhibit evidence of serious conduct problems. Five of the eight variables for child conduct yielded significant main effects. Teacher and parent ratings on child conduct revealed significantly lower conduct problems for the intervention group, compared with the control group. Peer nominations of aggressive-disruptive behavior and one parent measure (the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children) yielded no significant differences between the two groups.


Social Cognition

At the end of grade 3, the proportion of competent responses on a social problem-solving measure was marginally higher for intervention children than for the control group. In addition, intervention children generated marginally fewer hostile attributions about peer intentions than the control group children.


Academic Progress

At the end of grade 3, there were no significant differences between the groups on reading or on grades for language arts or mathematics.


Child Social Competence

At the end of grade 3, there were no significant effects of intervention on the sociometric measures of peer social preference and prosocial behavior.


Parenting Behavior

At the end of grade 3, there was less parental endorsement of physical punishment for children’s problem behaviors and greater self-reported improvement in parenting behavior, compared with reports of the control group.

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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1

The Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group (2002) evaluated the comprehensive Fast Track program during its first 3 years. Subjects attended 54 schools in four geographic sites serving neighborhoods identified as high risk on the basis of crime and poverty statistics. The schools at each geographic site were divided into two sets, matched on size, ethnic composition, achievement scores, and percentage of free lunch recipients. Half of the schools were randomly assigned to an intervention group; the other half served as the control group. A multistaged screening included all kindergarten children in three successive cohorts at all four schools. The screening included teacher ratings of disruptive behavior followed by parent ratings of child behavior at home. More than 9,000 kindergarteners were screened, and those who scored in the top 40 percent on a teacher scale of conduct problems were screened further, using parent-reported behavior scores.


Children with the highest composite screen scores were selected to form a sample size of 891 (intervention=445; control=446). The sample was 51 percent African American, 47 percent European American, and 2 percent other ethnicities. Only 32 percent of the participants were from middle-class families. Analysis of demographic and behavioral variables at baseline indicated no significant differences between the two groups. A normative sample of 387 children was also followed to serve as a basis of comparison with the high-risk sample.


A curriculum in social and emotional development revised from the Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies (PATHS) curriculum was implemented in grades 1, 2, and 3 at the intervention schools. The Fast Track program also included parent training, home visiting, academic tutoring, and child social skills training along with additional parent and child group training that occurred weekly in grade 1, biweekly in grade 2, and monthly in grade 3. After grade 1, tutoring and other individualized support components of the program were offered if individual children and families met a risk-based criterion for each component. A Fast Track Educational Coordinator provided support and consultation for teachers and monitored implementation of the PATHS curriculum at intervention schools.


Data was collected from parents, teachers, and children each summer following grades 1, 2, and 3. Outcomes at grade 3 included conduct problems, social cognition, academic progress, child social competence, and parenting behavior.

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. 2002. “Evaluation of the First 3 Years of the Fast Track Prevention Trial With Children at High Risk for Adolescent Conduct Problems.” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 30(1):19–36.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. 1999. “Initial Impact of the Fast Track Prevention Trial for Conduct Problems: 2. Classroom Effects.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 67(5):648–57.

Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. 2010. “Fast Track Intervention Effects on Youth Arrests and Delinquency.” Journal of Experimental Criminology 6:131–57.

Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. 2011. “The Effects of the Fast Track Preventive Intervention on the Development of Conduct Disorder Across Childhood.” Child Development 82(1):331–45.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

School-Based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs
Designed to foster the development of five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies, in order to provide a foundation for better adjustment and academic performance in students, which can result in more positive social behaviors, fewer conduct problems, and less emotional distress. The practice was rated Effective in reducing students’ conduct problems and emotional stress.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Multiple juvenile problem/at-risk behaviors
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Internalizing behavior

Early Self-Control Improvement Programs for Children
This practice consists of programs designed to increase self-control and reduce child behavior problems (e.g., conduct problems, antisocial behavior, and delinquency) with children up to age 10. Program types include social skills development, cognitive coping strategies, training/role playing, and relaxation training. This practice is rated Effective for improving self-control and reducing delinquency.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Self-Control
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Age: 5 - 15

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White

Geography: Rural, Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Academic Skills Enhancement, Classroom Curricula, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, Parent Training, School/Classroom Environment

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide, Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development (formerly Blueprints for Violence Prevention)

Program Director:
Kenneth A. Dodge
Fast Track
Box 90545, Duke University
Durham NC 27708
Phone: 919.684.3731

Program Director:
Karen L. Bierman
Fast Track, Child Study Center
503B Keller
University Park PA 16802
Phone: 814.865.3879

Program Director:
Robert J. McMahon
Department of Psychology, Simon Fraser University
RCB 5246, 8888 University Drive
Burnaby VSA 1S6
Phone: 778.772.9031