Investigating Mechanisms of Change in the Collaborative Problem

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Investigating Mechanisms of Change

in the Collaborative Problem

Solving Model

Georgina Heath

Submitted for the Degree of
Doctor of Psychology

(Clinical Psychology)

School of Psychology

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

University of Surrey

Guildford, Surrey

United Kingdom

September 2016


Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS; Greene & Ablon, 2006) is a treatment model designed to reduce behavioural difficulties among children and adolescents by developing their cognitive, emotional and social skills. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the CPS approach in an outpatient setting and to explore whether child executive functioning (EF), increased parental empathy, and/or reduced parental stress are possible mechanisms of change within the CPS model. Forty-two families of children aged 3-12 years with behavioural difficulties completed a 12-week in-home CPS treatment programme. Caregiver report measures were completed pre and post-treatment. The results suggest that post CPS there were significant reduction in child behavioural difficulties, improved child executive functioning, increased parental empathy, reduced parental stress, and an improvement in caregiver-child relationships. Regression analyses indicated that improvements in child EF appeared to be the primary mechanism of change within the CPS model, predicting approximately 22% of variance in child behavioural outcomes. Reduced parental stress also accounted for a small amount of variance, however changes in parental empathy were not a predictor of child behavioural outcomes. Child behaviour pre-intervention was not associated with the amount of change produced in child executive functioning, parental empathy or parental stress, which indicates that positive changes can occur through CPS, regardless of the severity of behavioural difficulties at outset. These results suggest that child EF and low parental stress are critical for healthy child and adolescent development, and should be a focus for interventions aimed at reducing child behavioural difficulties. Keywords: Collaborative Problem Solving; Children; Behavioural Difficulties; Executive Functioning; Parental Empathy; Parental Stress

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