This study evaluated the effectiveness of the Secret Agent Society (SAS) small group program in improving children’s social skills, social competence and anxiety.
Participants included 27 children aged seven to 12 years (20 boys, seven girls) whose parents identified them as experiencing peer relationship difficulties or social anxiety. SAS featured a computer game and other spy-themed activities that children played during nine weekly 90 minute club meetings that were facilitated by University psychology clinic interns. The program also included weekly parent group training sessions, home missions (skills practice tasks) and weekly tip sheets that informed school staff about the skills that children were learning, and how they could support them in applying these skills in the classroom and playground. Program outcomes were evaluated using a range of parent- and child-report measures administered at pre-intervention, post-intervention and at six-week follow-up.
Results suggested that SAS led to significant improvements in children’s social skills as reported by parents (Fs (2, 25) ≥ 21.91, ps < 0.0001, partial ɳ2s ≥ 0.46), children’s social competence as reported by parents (F(2, 25) = 17.12, p < 0.001, partial ɳ2 = 0.58), children’s overall anxiety as reported by parents (F(2, 25) = 8.57, p = 0.001, partial ɳ2 = 0.41), and children’s social anxiety as reported by themselves (F(2, 25) = 7.14, p = 0.004, partial ɳ2 = 0.36). All significant treatment effects were maintained at six-week follow-up.
These findings suggest that the program holds promise as a community-based resilience program for children, although larger scale controlled trials of the intervention are needed.