Youth Violence Interventions

Early Childhood Education

Early education programs, by helping to ensure success in school, can have an important impact on the subsequent development of violent behavior. Early intervention programs appear to strengthen a child’s bonds to school by improving school achievement through social reinforcement of the student role (Elliot 1979). One early intervention project, the Perry Preschool Program, was found to be effective for preventing violence (Berrueta-Clemens 1984, Schweinhart 1993). High-risk children enrolled in the program had less delinquent behavior at age 15. At age 19, 31% of program participants had been arrested for a crime, compared to 51% of controls. Participants also secured better employment and were less likely to require public assistance. The effects of the program persisted far longer than the initial effects on cognitive function at school entry.

The Syracuse Family Development Research Project coupled a home visitation component with parent training, child cognitive development activities, social support, linkage to social services, and a book and toy lending library. Educational child care and a parent organization were also provided. A long-term follow-up found that only 6% of program participants had a juvenile record by age 15, compared to 22% of controls. Program participants who had a criminal record had less serious offenses, and fewer offenses, than controls with a criminal record (Lally 1988). Considering the cost of delinquency (Greenwood 1995), preschool education is an inexpensive investment that should be made available to all children born in high-risk environments.