The cycle of violence and victimization: A study of the school-based intervention of a multidisciplinary youth violence-prevention program

H. Nadel, M. Spellmann, T. Alvarez-Canino, L. Lausell-Bryant, G. Landsberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article reports on the school-based intervention component of a multidisciplinary program intended to reduce and prevent youth violence in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. This intervention is based on three theories. The first theory posits that modifying beliefs, attitudes, and norms will help youths develop behaviors that support nonviolence. The second theoretical construct asserts that enhancing relationships with peers and family will buffer youths from the effects of exposure to violence. Finally, the third theory suggests that changing aspects of the setting and climate that contribute to violent behavior will prevent violence. The school-based intervention, the Safe Harbor, is a victim-assistance and violence-prevention program. The Safe Harbor offers activities including a 20-lesson violence-prevention and victim-assistance curriculum, counseling, parent involvement, teacher training, and school-change campaigns. The evaluation design is a panel study, with cohorts surveyed longitudinally at nonequivalent intervals. One hundred and fifteen seventh- and eighth-grade students who receive the curriculum and other services are the experimental group; the other 879 students in the seventh and eighth grades serve as the comparison group. Baseline data were collected through a survey of the entire school before the program's implementation in January 1995. Subsequent data collection will include interviews and focus groups; future analysis will address how participation in other parts of the Safe Harbor program or other programs in the school affects outcomes. The participation rate for the baseline survey in the experimental group was 86%, in the comparison group 76%. Responses to the survey questions were virtually identical between the two groups. Preliminary analyses reflect a climate of pervasive violence in the school, family, and community. More than half of the sample reported witnessing a severe beating in the school or their community within the past four months. Forty-four percent witnessed someone being attacked with a weapon in their neighborhood. The psychological consequences of exposure to violence were severe-51% of the sample reported post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. A number of lessons have been learned from implementing and evaluating this project, including the importance of fostering community partnership and strong relationships with the school, and addressing both reactions to victimization and norms and beliefs about aggression. Medical Subject Headings (MESH): violence, intervention studies, program evaluation, primary prevention, adolescent behavior, risk factors, conflict.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-119
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican journal of preventive medicine
Issue number5 SUPPL.
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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