Awarded Grant to Prevent Violence and Violence-Related Injury
Although important progress has been made in youth violence prevention, further work is urgently needed to improve the effectiveness of current prevention efforts. This project focuses on early adolescence -a crucial transition point during which youth are at increased risk for violence and victimization. The limited impact of current interventions for this age group underscores the importance of clarifying the risk and protective factors most relevant to these youth. Developmentally, early adolescents may be particularly susceptible to the influence of peers, and peer group and school norms related to violence. The goal of this project is to examine the role of modifiable protective factors representing processes at the individual, parent, peer group, and school level that have the potential to reduce the impact of risk factors encountered in the school and peer domains. This information could inform efforts to develop more effective programs to reduce the escalation of violence associated with adolescence. This project was designed to take advantage of an existing longitudinal data set collected as part of the recently completed Multi-site Violence Prevention Project (MVPP). Within the MVPP, data on risk and protective factors were obtained from multiple sources for students at 37 schools across multiple waves from the start of the sixth grade through the end of the eighth grade. Access to a data set that sampled teachers (N = 263) and two cohorts of students (N = 5,615) at a large number of schools representing four diverse sites provides a relatively unusual opportunity to examine the influence of risk and protective factors within the individual, peer, parent, and school domains on changes in individuals’ level of violence during early adolescence. Few previous studies have sampled a sufficiently large or diverse sample of schools, or collected data that provided the depth and scope needed to examine the interaction between risk and protective factors at different levels of influence, particularly those that involve peer group and school-level processes. The specific aims of this project are to (1) Determine the extent to which association with delinquent peers, peer group norms, and school processes supporting violence increase risk for violence among middle school students; (2) Determine the protective effects of individual beliefs (e.g., beliefs against violence, beliefs supporting nonviolent strategies), parenting variables (parental support for nonviolent strategies, parental involvement and monitoring), and group norms for nonviolent strategies; (3) Test competing models of the relations among risk and protective factors; and (4) Determine the consistency of these effects across gender and ethnicity with the context of schools that differ in their ethnic compositions and structures.