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Preventing Youth Violence:  Opportunities for Action

Key Prevention Strategies

Evidence-based youth violence prevention strategies have become more evident as our research has grown. Rather than focusing on the problems that need to be reduced, these broad and overlapping strategies emphasize how the strengths within individuals, families, communities, and society can be enhanced.

Implementation of a combination of the strategies below is likely to result in stronger and more sustainable improvements in health and safety than the implementation of a single strategy.  More information about each of these strategies is available in CDC’s Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action [PDF 2.86MB].

  • Build children’s and adolescents’ skills and competencies to choose nonviolent, safe behaviors.
  • Foster safe, stable, nurturing relationships between young people and their parents and caregivers.
  • Build and maintain positive relationships between young people and caring adults in their community.
  • Develop and implement school-wide activities and policies to foster social connectedness and a positive environment.
  • Improve and sustain a safe physical environment in communities and create spaces to strengthen social relationships.
  • Build viable and stable communities by promoting economic opportunities and growth.
  • Facilitate the social cohesion and collective efficacy of the community.
  • Change societal norms about the acceptability of violence and willingness to intervene.
  • Change the social and structural conditions that affect youth violence and lead to health inequity.

The table below is available online in its entirety in CDC’s Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action [PDF 2.86MB]. It is offered here to help provide a concrete sense of how youth violence prevention strategies can be advanced through the selection and implementation of evidence-based approaches and activities within communities. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of evidence-based approaches or an endorsement of any specific program, policy, or practice.

Youth Violence Prevention Approaches Based on the Best Available Evidence*
ApproachDescriptionExamples of Programs, Policies, and Practices
Universal School-based Youth Violence PreventionProvide students and school staff with information about violence, change how youth think and feel about violence, and teach nonviolent skills to resolve disputes.

Life Skills Training (LST) teaches anger management and conflict resolution. Evaluations of this program have shown significant reductions in fighting and delinquency, including a 26% reduction in high frequency fighting within one year.

Other evidence-based universal school programs include: Good Behavior Game, Positive Action, Project Towards No Drug Abuse, and Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies.

Parenting Skill and Family Relationship ApproachesProvide caregivers with support and teach communication, problem-solving, monitoring, and behavior management skills.

The Strengthening Families program teaches parents to use discipline, mange their emotions, and communicate with their child and teaches youth strategies to deal with peer pressure, manage stress, and solve problems. Evaluations of this program have shown significant reductions in aggression, hostility, and conduct problems and improvements in parent’s limit-setting, parent-child communication, and youth’s prosocial behavior.

Other examples of evidence-based parenting and family programs include: the Incredible Years, Triple P (Positive Parenting Program), and Guiding Good Choices.

Intensive Family-focused ApproachesProvide therapeutic services to high-risk, chronic youth offenders and their families to address individual, family, school, and community factors that contribute to violence and delinquency.

Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care is for youth who need out-of-home placements and includes extensive training of foster parents, family therapy for biological parents, skills training and support for youth, and school-based academic and behavioral supports. This program has been shown to significantly reduce delinquency, violence, and violent crime and sustain improvements over time.

Other examples of evidence-based intensive family-focused approaches include: Multisystemic Therapy and Functional Family Therapy.

Policy, Environmental, and Structural ApproachesInvolve changes to community environments that can enhance safety and affect youth violence and youth violence risk/ protective factors.

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are public-private partnerships that collect resources from businesses and invest in local services and activities. Significant reductions in violence have been documented in BIDs neighborhoods.

Other examples include: policies to reduce youth access to alcohol and changes in the physical environment using principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).

Street Outreach and Community MobilizationConnects trained staff with at-risk youth to conduct conflict mediation, make service referrals, and change beliefs about the acceptability of violence.

Cure Violence (formally known as CeaseFire) works to interrupt violence, particularly shootings, and change norms about the acceptability and inevitability of violence. An evaluation found reduced shootings and killings and fewer retaliatory killings in most communities where the program was implemented.

Other examples include: Richmond Comprehensive Homicide Initiative, Operation Ceasefire, and Safe Streets.

Early Childhood Home VisitationProvides information, caregiver support, and training about child health, development, and care to families in their homes.

Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) provides training and support to mothers during pregnancy and two years after giving birth to support a healthy pregnancy and increase mothers’ knowledge and skills about child development and care. It has been shown to decrease risk factors for youth violence, such as child maltreatment and early behavior problems, and reduce adolescent arrests and delinquency.

Another example includes: Triple P

Early Childhood EducationProvides high-quality, early childhood education to disadvantaged children to build a strong foundation for future learning and healthy development.

The Highscope Perry Preschool Project provides small classroom instruction by staff trained to address the needs of disadvantaged children and their families. Evaluations have found beneficial outcomes, including better academic achievement and classroom behavior and lower delinquency and lifetime arrests for violent crimes.

Other examples include: Early Risers Skills for Success and Raising Healthy Children Program

*CDC's Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action provides references and more information about some of the listed youth violence prevention approaches. More information about the specific programs, policies, and practices listed as examples as well as other promising approaches can also be found online in CDC’s STRYVE Strategies Selector Tool and Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development.

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