School-based violence prevention program has benefits for maltreated youth

Study by C.V. Crooks, K. Scott, W. Ellis and D.A. Wolfe, Summarized by Judi Fairholm, Director, RespectED

Child maltreatment creates a strong risk factor for violent delinquency in adolescence: it affects the healthy development of children and contributes to a wide range of negative psychological and physical health issues.

A recent study in 20 schools in Ontario showed that on average 9.6% of grade 11 students across 20 schools were classified as having engaged in delinquent acts with rates varying by school in a range between 2% and 32%. Delinquent acts were defined as having:

  • fought with someone to the point where they needed care for their injuries
  • been in a fight where you hit someone with something other than your hands
  • carried a knife for the purpose of defending yourself or using it in a fight
  • carried a gun other than for hunting or target shooting
  • carried any other weapon such as a stick or club
  • threatened someone in order to get their money or things
  • tried to force someone to have sex with you.

The study focused on the "Fourth R" approach to examine underlying relationship dynamics common to dating violence, unsafe sex, substance use and peer violence (Wolfe, Jaffe and Crooks, 2006). The Fourth R program includes a 21-session, classroom-based curriculum that emphasizes knowledge, awareness, and skill development pertaining to personal safety in relationships, sexual health, and substance use.

The Fourth R has been able to demonstrate and provide a protective effect on delinquency for maltreated youth at post-test. At a two-year follow up, the Fourth R was found to significantly reduce dating violence and increase condom use among students, relative to peers attending control schools who received regular health classes.

Read the original study, "Impact of a universal school-based violence prevention program on violent delinquency: Distinctive benefits for youth with maltreatment histories," in the International Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect, Issue 35, pp. 393–400.