Youth Violence Interventions

Infancy and Early Childhood Intervention Programs

Evaluation research suggests that preventive approaches applied between the prenatal period and age 6 reduce juvenile violence, delinquency and crime more effectively than programs implemented later in life. Early intervention is key (OJJDP 1995, Greenwood 1995).

Home visitation

Family-related factors play an important role in the development of delinquency. Inadequate social support of parents is an important correlate of children’s antisocial behavior (Dunst 1988). There has been a long history in the United States and in other countries of health nurses visiting mothers and children in their homes. Interventions with families to reduce the risk of violence can take many forms. The most successful interventions are those which appear to affect more than one risk factor, or support different strengths in the family. Early childhood interventions that have achieved long-term reductions in antisocial behavior and delinquency include home visitors as an essential feature, along with early education (Berrueta-Clemens 1984, Schweinhart 1993, Johnson 1987, Lally 1988, Seitz 1985). In these programs, weekly to monthly home visits provided parenting information, emotional support, counseling and referrals to appropriate outside agencies. Long-term follow-up of visited children found they had lower rates of offending as teenagers (Berrueta-Clemens 1984, Seitz 1985), and less teacher-rated antisocial behavior than those who did not receive home visitation (Berrueta-Clemens 1984, Johnson 1987, Lally 1988, Seitz 1985).

The studies by Olds and colleagues (1986) of home visitors in Elmira, NY documented lower rates of child abuse and neglect in the intervention group, as well as a positive impact on the child’s cognitive functioning; the follow-up period has not yet been long enough to ascertain the impact on teenage violence. The Prenatal/Early Infancy Project targeted an area with high rates of poverty and child abuse in the Appalachian region of New York State. Home visits by nurses began during pregnancy and continued until children were 2 years old. Mothers were randomly selected for the intervention group were provided with health and parent education, job counseling, and linkage to social services. Efforts were made to involve the mothers’ relatives and friends as well. Compared to mothers randomly assigned to be controls, mothers served by the program were more likely to graduate from high school, get a job, and delay subsequent pregnancy. The rate of verified child abuse was only 4% for program participants compared to 19% among controls (Olds 1986).