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Challenging Behavior in Young Children


    Meeting the Challenge

Addressing Youth Violence: An Intersectoral Integrated Approach for Western Nova Scotia. Phase 1 Report and Literature Review

Addressing Youth Violence

Prepared by Sharing Strengths, 2002.

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 children—a comprehensive approach that includes programs for schools, families, and the community as well as individual children—is based on a literature review written by Judy as well as dozens of consultations with Family and Children’s Services, school boards, Ministry of Justice officials, police, probation officers, recreation workers, addiction services, and youth themselves.

Click here to read an excerpt.

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Excerpts from Addressing Youth Violence

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 officials.

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

  • There 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 don’t have a rigourous enough scientific design, hence their results aren’t 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 comprehensive—that 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, it’s 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 don’t 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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