Effective Types of Youth Violence Programs

In recent years, researchers have carefully evaluated the effectiveness of a number of violence prevention programs and strategies. The good news is that a number of programs have been proven to be effective at preventing violence, even with teens that are already violent or in trouble with the law.

Unfortunately, a number of widely used approaches to youth violence have been shown to be ineffective – and a few even appear to harm teens that participate. Before enrolling your child or developing or supporting a program to reduce youth violence, it is important to determine whether there is evidence for its effectiveness. Some of the types of programs that have been shown to make a difference include:

Positive youth development programs - including after-school programs that give a child or teen the opportunity to learn new skills and build relationships with caring adults and mentoring programs that pair a teen with a supportive, nonjudgmental role model.[1,2,3]

Family strengthening and support services - including programs that provide home visiting for new parents, help parents to improve their parenting skills, or offer support groups.[4,5,6]

Skills training programs in schools, daycare centers, and the community – these programs try to give children and youth the social, emotional, and problem-solving skills they need to deal with difficult social situations. [7,8,9]

School-based programs - including those to reduce the risk of academic failure, truancy, and dropping out, increase academic motivation, and reduce disciplinary problems, and drug and alcohol abuse. [10,11]

Counseling and intervention services for youth involved in violence and their families - Individual counseling has generally been found to be ineffective with delinquent youth. Some programs that provide family therapy have been shown to be effective, however. Intensive treatment programs that look at the many influences on the youth, including the family, school, peer, and neighborhood environments, also have been shown to have a positive impact.[12,13]

The Surgeon General’s Report on Youth Violence designated a number of types of programs as ineffective at preventing youth violence. These are programs that have been evaluated with rigorous experimental designs and have been found to have no effect, or even a negative effect, on violence or known risk factors for violence.

For example, there is no evidence for the effectiveness of peer-led programs in schools, including peer counseling, peer mediation, and peer leaders, in reducing violence.

Gun buyback programs have been shown to have no effect on gun violence.

Two approaches to working with high-risk youth have also been found to be ineffective: redirecting high-risk youth toward conventional activities or trying to shift the peer group norms of groups of delinquent youth. Because these approaches tend to group high-risk youths together, they can actually increase the cohesiveness of delinquent peer groups and facilitate delinquency training.

In treating violent or delinquent youths, a number of approaches have been found to be ineffective in preventing further criminal behavior. These include: