Awarded New Investigator Grant


School violence impacts the social, psychological, and physical well being of both students and teachers and disrupts the learning process. Most federal mandates, research, and school interventions to address school violence have focused on the individual’s contribution to violence and not on the contribution of the school environment. While research has suggested that the school social and physical environment impact the occurrence of school violence, less is known about the specific factors of this environment that contribute to violence or their interconnection. These factors offer schools another possible intervention point to reduce violence and its sequelae. Objectives This study primarily aims to understand what factors of the school social and physical environment encourage or discourage violence from occurring at school. Information about the mechanisms by which these factors contribute to the occurrence and severity of violence at school will also be examined. Secondarily, differences in the perceptions of factors and their impact will also be examined based on select individual level characteristics (e.g. gender, experience with violence). Study Design Concept mapping sessions will be conducted with multiple groups of Baltimore City public high school students. These sessions will allow for a generation of statements about the social and physical environment’s contribution to violence, a rating of each statement’s importance for the initiation, cessation, and severity of violence, a generation of a conceptual framework of the contribution of the social and physical environment and an explanation of this conceptual framework. Analyses of the reliability and validity of the resulting conceptual framework will be undertaken. Participants Approximately 60 students from 5 diverse geographic locations in Baltimore City will participate in all three concept mapping sessions. These youth will all be students of the Baltimore City Public School System, a large urban school system that serves primarily African American students. Setting High school students will be recruited from after school programs under the auspices of the Family League of Baltimore City. All sessions will be conducted during normal after school activities. Outcome Measures This study will result in the creation of conceptual frameworks illustrating how students believe the school environment contributes to the problem of school violence. The conceptual frameworks will highlight the main components of the environment that impact violence. Additionally, information about how these components, as well as the factors that form them, impact the initiation, cessation, and severity of violence at school will be gathered. A comparative analysis between the conceptual frameworks of groups of students at both the framework and factor level will be completed. Additionally, differences in perceptions of factor importance by select individual level characteristics will be evaluated.