researchers meeting with students

Dr. Sethi meeting with students. Image via Vanderbilt University

Researchers from Vanderbilt University recently piloted a school-based program to reduce violence among middle grade students. Lead researcher Manny Sethi, Ph.D., assistant professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, and his co-authors wanted to find a way to prevent violence among young people, rather than deal with violence reactively. Their research lead to testing a program in an area were one-third of students do not feel safe at school. The findings indicate that evidenced-based approaches can reduce the amount of violence that occurs in schools.

The research team evaluated 27 programs nationwide in search of an appropriate school-based violence reduction methodology, eventually settling on an evidenced-based conflict resolution program. They tested the program in a Nashville middle school with high rates of violence. The 122 students who participated in the program completed pre- and post-intervention questionnaires, describing their behaviors and experiences with violence.

After the program, there was a significant decrease in violent behavior and students were better equipped to deal with violence. Students who reported “sometimes” being hit or pushed before the intervention reported that there were “almost never” hit or pushed afterwards. Additionally, students reported that they “never” got beat up or threatened with a gun by others after the violence reduction program.

The researchers state that large-scale intervention is required to learn more about the program’s effectiveness. Since completing the study, the research team secured funding and expanded to 10 schools.

“This is about giving out children the tools they need. I think you can legislate all you want, but until we can really reach these children in a different way, I think it is going to be very difficult to reduce the amount of violence we are seeing in our kids,” concluded Sethi.

This research is published in the Journal of Inquiry and Violence Research.

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