Prevention and Intervention of Teen Dating Violence
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The ultimate goal of prevention and intervention is to stop dating violence before it begins. During the preteen and teen years, young people are learning the skills they need to form positive, healthy relationships with others. This is an ideal time to promote healthy relationships and prevent patterns of relationship violence that can last into adulthood. 
Studies investigating the effectiveness of programs to prevent dating violence are beginning to show positive results. Most programs focus on changing knowledge, attitudes and behaviors linked with dating violence while focusing on the skills needed to build healthy relationships.
Effective School Level Interventions
In one rigorous NIJ-funded study, school-level interventions reduced dating violence by up to 50 percent in 30 New York City public middle schools. Researchers evaluated dating violence and sexual harassment interventions by randomly assigning classes to receive:
- Classroom-level interventions
- School-level interventions.
- A combination of classroom- and school-level interventions.
- No intervention (i.e., the control group).
Classroom-level interventions were delivered in six sessions using a curriculum emphasizing the consequences for perpetrators, state laws and penalties, the construction of gender roles, and healthy relationships.
School-level interventions included the use of temporary school-based restraining orders, higher levels of faculty and security presence in "hot spots," and raising awareness school-wide.
Researchers found that compared to the control group who received no intervention, students who received the school-level intervention or both the school- and classroom-level intervention experienced reduced levels of dating violence and sexual harassment.
Notably, the classroom-level intervention alone was not effective in reducing these outcomes. In addition, students in the school-level intervention were more likely to intend to intervene as a bystander if they witnessed abusive behavior between their peers.
These findings are important in several ways:
- This is one of the first studies to document the effectiveness of such prevention programs among middle school students.
- Second, given the large size of the study (with more than 2,500 students) and the ethnic diversity of these students, the program may be applicable to a broad range of populations.
- The success of the school-level intervention is particularly important because it can be implemented with very few extra costs to schools.
See the curriculum evaluated in this study, Shifting Boundaries: Lessons on Relationships for Students in Middle School (pdf, 65 pages).
Family-Based Interventions for High-Risk Youth
Youth exposed to domestic violence are at increased risk to be both a victim and perpetrator of dating violence. Yet, we currently have no violence intervention protocols for this vulnerable group. To help fill the gap, NIJ funded an effort to adapt the successes of an existing evidence-based program (Families for Safe Dates) so it would be applicable to teens who are exposed to domestic violence.
Families for Safe Dates consists of six interactive booklets families complete on their own; a health educator then follows-up with the family via telephone.
To adapt Families for Safe Dates to teens exposed to domestic violence, the researcher recruited 28 women (and 35 of their 12-15 year old children) from 4 counties either when the women were in court filing a Domestic Violence Order of Protection (DVPO) or when seeking services through either public or community based programs. To be eligible, women must have been victims of domestic violence but no longer living with their partners and have a child ages 12-15 years old.
The researchers also:
- Adjusted the protocol recruitment strategies, data collection procedures, measures, and program administration, and eliminated the follow-up calls from the health educator.
- Determined that the intervention was reaching the high-risk group: Teens who had been exposed to an average seven years of domestic violence and had high rates of dating violence compared to national averages. These teens also had high rates of exposure to bullying, sexual harassment and peer aggression as both victims and perpetrators.
Overall the mothers and youth reported that they enjoyed the booklets and found them helpful and informative. Given low rates of booklet completion and follow up, however, the researchers could not decisively determine what effects the booklet had as they had planned to do in the pilot study.
The pilot study was instrumental in guiding the development, refinement, and implementation of a larger, ongoing efficacy trial of the intervention, which is being funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Read the final technical report Dating Abuse Prevention in Teens of Moms with Domestic Violence Protection Orders (pdf, 405 pages).
Learn more about the CDC's Randomized Efficacy Trial of Moms and Teens for Safe Dates.
 Taylor, B., Stein, N., Woods, D. and Mumford, E. (2011). Shifting Boundaries: Final Report on an Experimental Evaluation of a Youth Dating Violence Prevention Program in New York City Middle Schools (pdf, 322 pages).
 Ehrensaft, M. K., P. Cohen, J. Brown, E. Smailes, H. Chen, J.G. Johnson, "Intergenerational transmission of partner violence: A 20-year prospective study" Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, 71(4), (2003) 741-753.
] Foshee, Vangie A., H.L. McNaughton Reyes, S. Ennett, J. Cance, K. Bauman, J.M. Bowling, "Assessing the effects of Families for Safe Dates, a Family-based Teen Dating Abuse Prevention Program," Journal of Adolescent Health (2012) in press.