- Child development
- Problem-solving interventions with children
- Prevention programs
Significance of Shure Research to the Community
With my research colleague, George Spivack, I have identified specific thinking skills about one’s interpersonal world that are associated with adaptive and maladaptive behaviors across income levels and ethnic groups, in children ages 4 through l2. These skills include:
- Perspective-taking: ability to appreciate another’s point of view, even if different from one’s own (e.g., she likes dolls, I do not).
- Alternative Solution skills: ability to think of multiple ways to solve a problem that comes up with peers and adults (e.g., recognizing that offering a doll to a child who does not like dolls would not likely be a successful way to get that child to let her play with a desired toy.
- Consequential Thinking skills: ability to think of multiple reactions to an act (e.g., grabbing that toy to get to play with it).
- Means-End Thinking: ability to plan sequenced steps toward a stated goal, recognize potential obstacles that could interfere, and that problem solving takes time (e.g., making friends requires a plan, not just being introduced to peers of a popular leader).
As early as preschool, children deficient in the first three skills, and beginning about age 8, in means-ends thinking are more likely than competent problem-solvers to display maladaptive behaviors as physical, verbal, and relational aggression, impatience, inability to cope with frustration, and social inhibition. They are also less likely to show empathy, have good peer relations, and do well academically in school.
Our research has also shown that these behaviors can be reduced and prevented by teaching children how, not what to think in ways that will help them successfully resolve interpersonal problems. Via games, role-plays and other activities, children learn a problem-solving vocabulary to guide them to think of whether their idea is or is not a good one in light of how they and others might feel (perspective-taking), and what might happen next (consequential thinking). They also think about if their idea is not a good one, to think of something different to do that is a good idea (alternative solution thinking). Our research has shown that instead of telling children what and what not to do, and why, giving them problem solving skills enables them to tell us what and what not to do and why.
Reducing and preventing the described maladaptive behaviors early in life is important, because research has shown that they predict later, more serious outcomes as violence, substance-abuse, unwanted pregnancy, some forms of psychopathology, and school drop-out. In 2004, the Psychology Matters Initiative of the American Psychological Association (APA) recognized our research and training programs as having valuable applications that make a difference in people’s lives. And as early as 1979, Gary Vandenbos, Administrative Officer of Mental Health Policy of the APA submitted, “By failing to be responsive to the emotional/behavioral problems of children and youth, later problems and cost of dealing with the mental health problems of an older population are compounded.” Hopefully, our research contributes one small dent in that responsiveness.
Myrna B. Shure, PhD, is Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology at Drexel University (formerly MCP Hahnemann University) in Philadelphia. Her I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) series for pre/k through grade 6 is the original interpersonal problem-solving program for children, supported by over 40 years of research.
For her pioneering research with George Spivack and its practical applications for schools and families, Shure has received numerous awards including the Lela Rowland Prevention Award (1982) from the National Mental Health Association; the 1984 Distinguished Contribution Award from the Division of Community Psychology, American Psychological Association (APA), and in 2015, the Lifetime Achievement Award from APA’s Society of Counseling Psychology-Prevention Division.
I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) has been recognized as a national model prevention program by two special task forces of APA (1986; 1993), in 1997 by the Department of Health and Human Services, Mid-Atlantic Region as among the top six violence prevention programs in a five-state area, as an Exemplary Mental Health Program in 1998 by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), and as a Model Prevention Program by the Departments of Education and Justice in the 1999 Annual Report on School Safety.
In addition, ICPS has been recognized as an effective research-based discipline and violence prevention program by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in 2000, also in 2000, as a Character Education Program of Merit by the New Jersey Department of Education, and in 2001, by the Expert Panel on Safe, Disciplined, and Drug-Free Schools, US Department of Education. In 2004, the Psychology Matters Initiative of the American Psychological Association recognized ICPS for research with valuable applications that make a difference in people’s lives. And in 2002 and 2012, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) chose ICPS as a SELect program, its highest recognition.
Shure is also the author of four ICPS parenting books, “Raising a Thinking Child” (Pocket Books, 1996), “Raising a Thinking Preteen” (Henry Holt, 2000), “Raising a Thinking Child Workbook” (Research Press, 2000), and “Thinking Parent, Thinking Child” (Research Press, 2015). She is a frequent consultant to the media on issues relating to social adjustment and interpersonal competence in our nation’s youth.