Shifting Boundaries: Final Report on an Experimental Evaluation of a Youth Dating Violence Prevention Program in New York City Middle Schools
The purpose of this multi-level experiment was to provide high-quality scientific evidence concerning the effectiveness of targeting a young, universal primary prevention audience with classroom-based curricula and school-level interventions.
The authors randomly assigned school-based interventions to 30 public middle schools in New York City, and identified 117 sixth and seventhgrade classes to randomly receive additional classroom interventions. The classroom intervention was a sixsession curriculum that emphasized the consequences of dating violence and harassment (DV/H), laws and penalties for DV/H, the construction of gender roles, and healthy relationships. The building-based intervention included the use of temporary school-based restraining orders, higher levels of faculty and security presence in areas identified through student mapping of safe/unsafe "hot spots",and the use of posters to increase awareness and reporting of DV/H to school personnel. Quantitative surveys were implemented at baseline, immediately after the intervention, and six months post-intervention, and included measures of knowledge, attitudes, behavioral intentions, intentions to intervene as a bystander, peer and dating partner physical and sexual violence, sexual harassment, and other background items. Qualitative focus groups were conducted with interventionists and students to provide rich contextual to assess intervention implementation and student change associated with the interventions. Participating students ranged in age from 10 to 15 with 53% being female, 40% having prior experience with a violence prevention educational program, 50% reporting being in at least one dating relationship, 20% reporting having been the victim of dating violence, and 66% victims of peer violence. The combination of the classroom and building interventions, and the "building only" intervention led to 32-47% lower peer sexual violence victimization and perpetration up to six months after the intervention. The success of the "building only" intervention is particularly important because it can be implemented with very few extra costs to schools. Focus groups confirmed that the interventions were implemented as planned, teachers liked and were supportive of the interventions, and the positive survey results related to the interventions effectiveness were confirmed.