In one rigorous NIJ-funded study, school-level interventions in 30 New York City public middle schools reduced dating violence by up to 50 percent.
Researchers evaluated dating violence and sexual harassment interventions by randomly assigning classes to receive:
- Classroom-level interventions
- School-level interventions
- A combination of classroom- and school-level interventions
- No intervention (i.e., the control group)
Youth exposed to domestic violence are at greater risk for being both a victim and the perpetrator of dating violence. Classroom-level interventions were delivered in six sessions, using a curriculum emphasizing the consequences for perpetrators, state laws and penalties, the construction of gender roles, and healthy relationships.
School-level interventions included the use of temporary school-based restraining orders, higher levels of faculty and security presence in "hot spots," and raising awareness schoolwide.
Researchers found that, compared with the control group who received no intervention, students who received the school-level intervention or both the school- and classroom-level interventions experienced reduced levels of dating violence and sexual harassment. The researchers noted that the classroom-level intervention alone was not effective in improving these outcomes. In addition, students in the school-level intervention were more likely to intend to intervene as bystanders if they witnessed abusive behavior between their peers.
These findings are important in several ways:
- This is one of the first studies to document the effectiveness of such prevention programs among middle school students.
- Given the large size of the study (with more than 2,500 students) and the ethnic diversity of these students, the program may be applicable to a broad range of populations.
The success of the school-level intervention is particularly important because it can be implemented with very few extra costs to schools.
See the curriculum evaluated in this study, Shifting Boundaries: Lessons on Relationships for Students in Middle School (pdf, 65 pages).
[note 1] Taylor, Bruce, Nan D. Stein, Dan Woods, and Elizabeth Mumford. Shifting Boundaries: Final Report on an Experimental Evaluation of a Youth Dating Violence Prevention Program in New York City Middle Schools (pdf, 322 pages). Final report submitted to the National Institute of Justice, grant number 2008-MU-MU-0010, October 2011, NCJ 236175.