Youth Violence Interventions

Peer Counseling

A youth’s peer group can exert a powerful influence on her/his behavior. Youth who socialize by choice or default with peers already engaged in violent, delinquent or criminal behavior are more likely to engage in this kind of behavior. To counter this influence, group-oriented programs have proliferated in recent years. Most have been based on McCorkle, Elias and Bixby’s Guided Group Interaction (GGI) approach (McCorkle 1957) and have been implemented in treatment rather than preventive settings. Although there have been outcome studies of many of these programs, most have been poorly designed. The available evidence from randomized trials and quasi-experimental evaluations suggests that peer counseling in elementary and secondary schools has no measurable benefit, and may even be counterproductive (Gottfriedson 1987). It is not yet clear if the concept is flawed or if these programs have been implemented in an ineffective manner.

The results of an evaluation of a peer group program in St. Louis suggest that youth exhibiting antisocial behavior will improve if they are engaged in activities with prosocial youth that are directed by an experienced leader (Feldman 1983). The establishment of a new, positive peer group (or at minimum, a parallel group) from which the youth can get social reinforcement, affirmation and reward is critical.