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When grassroots groups in Western Nova Scotia
got together to tackle the problem of youth violence in their community,
they wanted to develop a strategy that was home-grown yet firmly
based on research. The result was the Addressing Youth Violence
project, for which Barbara acted as chief consultant. The intervention
she designed for middle-school-aged childrena comprehensive
approach that includes programs for schools, families, and the community
as well as individual childrenis based on a literature review
written by Judy as well as dozens of consultations with Family and
Childrens Services, school boards, Ministry of Justice officials,
police, probation officers, recreation workers, addiction services,
and youth themselves.
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from Addressing Youth Violence: An Intersectoral Integrated Approach
for Western Nova Scotia
Characteristics of the intervention
The intervention created for Phase II of the Addressing Youth Violence
project is based upon rigorous research from a variety of fields
including psychology, education, public health, medicine, and organizational
development. Both proactive and remedial, it requires commitment
and participation from all members of the community who have a stake
in healthy futures for children and youth: youth, parents, schools,
law enforcement agencies, justice, restorative justice, local youth
and family service agencies, the business community, and elected
The intervention recognizes
the importance of addressing the primary societal influences on
youth violence such as poverty, gender inequality, media violence,
racism and discrimination (Stroick, 2002) and is designed to promote
tolerance among young people living in Western Nova Scotia.
The programs selected for use as part
of this intervention have been proven effective in addressing aggressive
and violent behaviours, but in addition they have related secondary
prevention effects that foster protective factors and mitigate risk
factors. By promoting social and community development, these programs
may also result in improved educational achievement and social adjustment
and decreased substance abuse, truancy, gang membership, and/or
susceptibility to victimization.
Overview of key findings
in the literature
are very few longitudinal studies of violence prevention and/or
remediation in children and youth (Sherman,
n.d.b). This is important, because some interventions are effective
in the short term but not in the long term, and others have a
lag or sleeper effect with results that show up years later (Greenberg,
Domitrovich, and Bumbarger, 2001). Also many studies donít have
a rigourous enough scientific design, hence their results arenít
trustworthy. In addition, most of the studies are American and
may or may not apply to the Canadian context.
- To be effective, interventions must be addressed
to specific causes of violence or to the risk and protective factors
for violence (Greenberg et al., 2001; Kazdin, 1994; Wasserman
and Miller, 1998).
- An intervention has a better chance of being
effective if it is comprehensiveóthat is, it addresses several
levels of risk at the same time (Greenberg et al., 2001; Thornton,
Craft, Dahlberg, Lynch, and Baer, 2000). If it addresses the individual
and his family, school, peer group, and community (or any combination
of these), it is more likely to be successful (Greenberg et al.,
2001). Intervention on a single level simply does not have enough
strength to overcome the powerful multiple forces that go into
creating aggressive and violent behaviour (Thornton et al., 2000).
- For the same reason, an intervention
must be intensive and sustained over a long period to be effective
(Greenberg et al., 2001; Tremblay et al., 1999). Long-term funding
is therefore essential.
- It is much easier to prevent aggressive and
violent behaviour than it is to remediate it later (Greenberg
et al., 2001; Thornton et al., 2000; Tremblay and Craig, 1995).
Interventions with very young children or pregnant women are more
likely to be effective and to cost less in the end (Sherman, n.d.b;
Tremblay and Craig, 1995). However, interventions with children
and youth through the teenage years can still be effective (Greenberg
et al., 2001).
- Prevention programs can be universal (for
all children/youth in a setting) or targeted (either for children
at risk because of socio-economic or other factors or for children
who show early signs of becoming aggressive). Some interventions
include both universal and targeted programs. Each type has pros
and cons (Offord, 1996; Tremblay et al., 1999).
- Aggressive behaviour may be especially amenable
to intervention at transition times, such as entry to primary
school, entry to middle school, or beginning parenthood, when
peer groups are changing and new risk factors are appearing (Kazdin,
1994; Thornton et al., 2000; Tremblay and Craig, 1995).
- It is possible for an intervention to make
things worse (Tremblay and Craig, 1995). For example, creating
groups of children or adolescents with aggressive or antisocial
behaviour can make them more aggressive and antisocial (Tremblay
and Craig, 1995).
- When implementing an intervention program
that has already been proven to work, itís important to replicate
it exactly (Thornton et al., 2000). Proper training is therefore
critical (Thornton et al., 2000).
- When the people who are implementing a program
donít believe in it, it is far less likely to be successful. It
is therefore crucial to have buy-in from the professionals on
the front line as well as from administrators (Slaby, 1998; Thornton
et al., 2000).
- Evaluation should be built into an intervention
so that there is a way to tell whether it is effective (Thornton
et al., 2000; Tremblay et al., 1999).
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This material is copyrighted and may not be
reproduced in any manner or medium without written permission. For
information, contact jud...@challengingbehavior.com.
To get a PDF version of Addressing Youth
Violence, visit Horizons Community Development Associates.
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