Youth Violence

Less Effective Interventions

Many popular programs have not been found to be particularly effective when subjected to careful program evaluation. Some have been found to be counter-productive. Although many of these programs have positive features, they have not been found to produce sufficient benefit to justify their cost. Communities should think carefully before adopting these programs. If one or more are selected, they should be evaluated on a pilot basis before being implemented community-wide.

Individual-level interventions

Mentoring programs

One of the most common characteristics of youth who avoid lifestyles and situations with high levels of violence is a predictable, consistent relationship with a stable, competent adult (Howell and Bilchik 1995). Mentoring programs attempt to duplicate this kind of relationship for at-risk youth by recruiting adults to meet with a young person on a regular basis to be a good influence and talk over problems.

The majority of mentoring programs have not been rigorously evaluated. Most program reports recommend an evaluation component, but few report the results of any evaluation. Published evaluations are almost exclusively formative, or process evaluations, and concentrate on questions of implementation and "customer satisfaction" (e.g., did the adult/youngster involved say she/he thought the program was worthwhile, was an appropriate adult recruited for each child, did the adults meet with the youth the number of times they agreed to meet with them, etc.). Most acknowledge that the implementation and maintenance of a mentoring program is labor intensive. Specific challenges include making an appropriate match between the adult and the child, maintaining a schedule of regular contact and defining the nature and expectations of a mentoring relationship.

Although many participating adults and youth report satisfaction with their relationships, it is unclear whether or not the time-limited, sporadic nature of these relationships has much of an impact on the life of at-risk youth. OJJDP reviewed 10 mentoring programs and found that those which feature unconditionally and uncritically supportive relationships do not work (Howell and Bilchik 1995). One program that included behavior modification techniques may have been beneficial by improving school attendance (Fo 1975). No mentoring program has been found to reduce delinquency. In fact, some have been linked to an increased rate of delinquency in the intervention group (Howell and Bilchik 1995).