Effectiveness of universal school-based programmes for the primary prevention of violence in adolescents

Anna J. Gavine (Lead / Corresponding author), Peter D. Donnelly, Damien J. Williams

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5 Citations (Scopus)
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Objective Violence is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality amongst young people. Primary preventive programs aimed at reducing the involvement of young people in violence are often implemented in a school setting. This systematic review evaluated the effectiveness of universal school-based programs aimed at the primary prevention of violence in 11-18 year olds.

Method A pre-defined search strategy was used to search various sources (i.e. databases, gray literature, previous reviews, and reference lists of included studies) for randomised design trials and quasi-experimental design trials published between 2002 and March 2014. After screening 8051 abstracts, 21 studies were identified that satisfied the inclusion/exclusion criteria. These studies evaluated 16 different programs based mainly in the US.

Results Due to the heterogeneity meta-analysis was not possible; thus a narrative synthesis was reported. The most effective interventions utilised social development and social norms components. Attitudes towards violence was the most frequently measured outcome with six studies reporting a beneficial effect and two reporting no effect; three of the six studies examining violent behaviour demonstrated a small beneficial effect; and four of the seven studies examining physical aggression demonstrated a small beneficial effect.

Conclusions In general, this review found limited evidence of the effectiveness of universal school-based programs in the primary prevention of violence in 11-18 year olds; however, those that combined social development and social norms approaches appeared to be the most effective. Additional qualitative research/process evaluation is required to establish the processes that underpin the success/failure of such programs in order to inform their refinement, and the future development of effective programs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)390-399
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology of Violence
Issue number3
Early online date28 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016



  • Youth violence
  • Primary prevention
  • Social development
  • Social norms
  • Systematic Review
  • Evaluation

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