This school-based randomized controlled trial tested the efficacy of 2 expressive writing interventions among youth living in high-violence urban neighborhoods.
Seventeen classrooms (n = 258 seventh graders; 55% female; 91% African American/Black) from 3 public schools were randomized to 3 conditions in which they wrote 8 times about a nonemotional topic (control condition) or about experiencing and witnessing violence following either a standard or an enhanced expressive writing protocol. Outcomes were assessed 1 month prior and 2 and 6 months postintervention and included teacher-rated emotional lability and aggressive behavior and child-rated physical aggression. Intent-to-treat, mixed-model analyses controlled for preintervention measures of outcomes, sex, race, and family structure. At 2 months postintervention, relative to controls, students in the standard expressive writing condition had lower levels of teacher-rated aggression and lability (d = −.48). The beneficial effects of the writing interventions on aggression and lability were stronger at higher levels of community violence exposure. (Published abstract provided)