Youth Violence Interventions

Violence Prevention Curricula for Adolescents

Violence is more common in grades 6 through 8 than in grades 9 through 12, but the consequences of violence are more serious in the higher grades. Unfortunately, violence prevention curricula targeting older adolescents (age 15 and older) have not been found to be particularly effective because behavior patterns are already well-entrenched by the ninth or tenth grade (Webster 1993). More recent efforts have been directed at younger age groups. To be effective, violence prevention education should be initiated at an early age, when the child’s behavior is more malleable, and continued throughout adolescence.

Conflict resolution and violence prevention curricula are designed to improve students’ social, problem solving, and anger management skills, promote beliefs favorable to nonviolence, and increase knowledge about conflict and violence (Brewer 1995).

These programs differ from social competence curricula such as Interpersonal Cognitive Problem Solving in that they are specifically designed to reduce interpersonal conflict and violence. Few of these curricula have been evaluated in controlled studies, and those that have been evaluated have yielded mixed results. Four studies that assessed students’ aggressive or violent behavior found modest evidence of program impact (Bretherton 1993, Hammond 1991, Marvel 1993, Webster 1993) primarily by improving self-reported violent behavior. However, none of the programs has achieved significant changes in attitudes towards violence, and none has reported reduced rates of serious interpersonal violence.

One program, The Second Step violence prevention curriculum developed by the Committee for Children in Seattle, has been rigorously evaluated. In a large randomized controlled trial, Grossman et al. (1996) found that the curriculum decreased physically aggressive and negative behavior in second and third grade children. The duration of this effect, and its implications for violent behavior in later life, are unknown.