Educational interventions to prevent relationship violence in young people

Impact on crime
Evidence quality 4
Effect
How it works
cog full Evidence quality 2
Mechanism
Where it works
where full Evidence quality 2
Moderator
How to do it
what full Evidence quality 2
Implementation
What it costs
cost empty Evidence quality 0
Economic cost

What is the focus of the intervention?

This review focuses on educational interventions to prevent violence in adolescents and young adults specifically in the context of relationships and dating violence.

This is sometimes combined with developing various skills to help the participants prevent such violence.

The intervention is usually delivered in an educational setting with participants in their teenage years or early twenties. Common methods of delivery include videos, discussions about violence, challenging myths and raising awareness, and role-playing.

This narrative summarises the findings of one systematic review of 38 studies, 17 of which had crime outcomes (measuring episodes of violence).

EFFECT

How effective is it?

There is some evidence that the intervention has reduced crime, but overall the intervention has not had a statistically significant effect on crime.

Although the overall effect size was not significant, two of the eight studies which measured episodes of relationship violence showed a statistically significant reduction in the episodes of relationship violence experienced by participants receiving the intervention.

Of the non-crime outcomes measured by the authors, a significant increase in knowledge about dating violence was recorded in the primary studies.

How strong is the evidence?

The review was sufficiently systematic that most forms of bias that could influence the study conclusions can be ruled out.

The authors ensured that only comparable outcomes were analysed, as well as separating outcomes by the type of data that were reported.

The review used a thorough search strategy and utilised unpublished literature. Nevertheless, the authors note that potential biases could still exist around the selection of participants for the interventions, measurements of the performance of the participants, and the possibility of detecting the outcomes accurately.

MECHANISM

How does it work?

The authors of the review suggest potential mechanisms by which the education and skills-based interventions may work.

They note that the programmes may provide participants with the skills to communicate effectively; deal constructively with stress, disappointment and rejection; resolve conflicts and promote healthier relationships. They may also provide young people with skills to protect themselves from the risk of relationship violence, and may act to improve low self-esteem, which is linked to the likelihood of being a victim of relationship violence.

The only mechanism that is directly measured within the outcomes, however, is the acquisition of relevant communication skills.

MODERATORS

In which contexts does it work best?

The review notes a number of potential moderators, including the intervention setting (educational or community), the target audience (high risk groups or general audiences), the duration of the intervention (whether a single session or multiple sessions over time), and the timing of the outcome assessment (immediately after the intervention or months later). The authors did not justify (with theory) why these contextual differences might influence the outcome.

The only moderator found to have an influence on the outcome was the targeting of high-risk groups (such as adjudicated adolescent males or individuals with a history of maltreatment) rather than the general population.

A 75% reduction in violence was observed for high-risk groups. 

IMPLEMENTATION

What can be said about implementing this initiative?

When considering how the programmes were implemented, the authors noted that the content of the interventions was predominantly educational, though some contained self-defence elements and one had a component of communication skills.

The most common method of delivery was to show participants a video and then follow this with a group discussion or question and answer session.

Many studies also included lectures or role-plays with participants. The focus was often to raise awareness of violence, challenge common myths and challenge societal attitudes about rape and relationship violence.

When implementing the programmes, most studies provided training (to varying degrees) for the personnel delivering the interventions. Of these, some described ways of minimising the potential for performance bias, such as providing personnel with a script or detailed guidance to follow. However, only six studies described how implementation fidelity or the performance of those delivering the intervention was assessed.

ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS

How much might it cost?

The review does not mention costs (and/or benefits) and no formal economic analysis is provided.

General considerations

  • Because schools play an important role in the development of social behaviour, they provide an appropriate environment to target children and adolescents in the prevention of dating violence and subsequently other forms of relationship violence.
  • These results should be interpreted with caution, as individual studies differed in the types of participants and interventions that they used and the ways in which changes were measured.
  • Most studies had methodological shortcomings, which may have led to overestimation of their effects.
  • The overall results show no evidence of effect, rather than evidence of no effect, and a subset of the primary studies were positive. Therefore, current interventions should not necessarily be stopped, but rather further research and more methodologically sound primary studies should be conducted.
 

Summary

There is some evidence that the intervention has reduced crime, but overall the intervention has not had a statistically significant effect on crime.

Two of the primary studies show a significant reduction in the episodes of relationship violence experienced by participants receiving the intervention.

However, methodological shortcomings in these studies mean that the results must be treated with caution.

Ratings for Individual Reviews

Review 1

How it works
cog full Evidence quality 2
Mechanism
Where it works
where full Evidence quality 2
Moderator
How to do it
what full Evidence quality 2
Implementation
What it costs
cost empty Evidence quality 0
Economic cost

Resources

Review: Fellmeth, G. L. T., Heffernan, C., Nurse, J., Habibula, S. and Sethi D. (2013) 'Educational and skills-based interventions for preventing relationship and dating violence in adolescents and young adults', Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD004534. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004534.pub3

This narrative was prepared by UCL Jill Dando Institute and was co-funded by the College of Policing and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).  ESRC Grant title: 'University Consortium for Evidence-Based Crime Reduction'.  Grant Ref: ES/L007223/1.

Uploaded 01/05/15

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