Program

Dec 12, 2012

OVERVIEW

The Aggressors, Victims & Bystanders (AVB) program is designed for middle-school-aged children, and seeks to prevent violence through learning about how conflict and violence arise, and about personal reactions to violence.  A randomized, experimental evaluation of the AVB program found it had no impacts on social problem-solving skills, beliefs supporting violence, behavioral intent, self-reported antisocial behavior, or student self-rated behavior.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Middle-school students who are living in areas at high risk for violence

The AVB program combines classroom instruction with behavioral strategies for controlling aggression and managing conflict.  The school-based curriculum consists of 20 sessions that look at the nature of aggression and violence and the techniques available to control them. Session topics include looking at conflict in our lives, circumstances when conflicts become violence, beliefs about conflict and violence, inner conflict, and visions of a non-violent world.  Additionally, the program promotes the “Think-First” model of conflict resolution.  The model is a four-step method for controlling anger and aggression; the steps are 1) Keep cool, 2) Size up the situation, 3) Think it through, and 4) Do the right thing. Sessions are provided three to five times per week, last from 30-45 minutes, and are followed by supplemental activities.

As of 2012, the manual is available for purchase for $80.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Slaby, R. G., Wilson-Brewer, R., DeVos, E. (1994).  Aggressors, Victims & Bystanders: An assessment-based middle school violence prevention curriculum.  Final Report of Grant # R49/CCR103559 to Education Development Center from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Education Development Center, Newtown, MA.

Evaluated population: The sample included 237 middle-school students from 23 classrooms in three Boston schools that were at high risk for violence.  Fifty-four percent of the sample were female. Sixty-nine percent were African-American, six percent were non-Hispanic whites, five percent were non-Puerto-Rican Latino, four percent were Puerto Rican, four percent were Asian-American, four percent were Haitian, and four percent were of some other ethnicity.  Thirty-two percent of children were in 6th grade, 60 percent were in 7th grade, and 8 percent were in 8th grade.

Approach: Randomization was applied at the classroom level, with four classrooms assigned to the treatment group for every one classroom assigned to the control group.  In total, 18 classes (188 students) were assigned to the treatment group, and four classes (49 students) to the control group.  Classroom teachers assigned to the treatment group were given a half-day training session in administering the curriculum.  Children in the control condition received no intervention and attended their usual classes.

Students in each class were assessed at pre- and post-intervention.  Children were assessed using a variety of paper and pencil questionnaires designed to measure bullying, aggression, social problem solving, victimization, conflict resolution, hopelessness, antisocial behavior, and teacher-rated behavior.

Results: At the post-test data collection, the program had no overall impact on social problem-solving skills; however, there were significant changes pre- to post- test among the treatment group. After reading an aggressive-perspective story, students in the treatment group were more likely to apply an adversarial framing to the story problem (a negative impact). However, for treatment group students reading a victim-perspective story there was a statistically significant change in the opposite direction (a positive impact). The study also found that, among the treatment group from pre- to post-test, there was a statistically significant decrease in applying an adversarial perspective to the “victim” story, and a statistically significant increase in framing the goal in a non-adversarial way.

The AVB program had no overall impact on beliefs supporting violence; however, there was a significant decrease pre- to post- test among the treatment group for the belief that aggression is legitimate, whereas there was no significant change within the control group.

Additionally, this evaluation found no overall impact on students’ behavioral intent; however, there were significant changes pre- to post- test among the treatment group. Among the treatment group, the study found a significant decrease in preference for physical aggression, and an increase in preference for seeking information and for avoidance, whereas no significant changes were found within the control group.

Teacher-rated behavior outcomes were available only for one school. The program had no overall impact on ratings of aggressor, passive bystander, problem-solver, impulsive, or rigid behavior. Both control and treatment group children showed increases in victim behavior and inciteful bystander behavior, but control group children showed significantly larger increases than treatment group children. The program had negative impacts for treatment group children on helpful bystander behavior (that, is these behaviors declined), and positive impacts aggressive behavior (this increased). Control group children showed no change on either of these behaviors.

Although the researchers used a cluster sampling procedure for this study, there is no evidence that statistical corrections were made to account for the potential errors introduced by using cluster methods.  Results from this study should be interpreted with caution.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

Website: http://www.thtm.org/

References

Slaby, R. G., Wilson-Brewer, R., & DeVos, E. (1994).  Aggressors, Victims & Bystanders: An assessment-based middle school violence prevention curriculum.  Final Report of Grant # R49/CCR103559 to Education Development Center from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Education Development Center, Newtown, MA.

KEYWORDS: Adolescence (12-17), High-Risk, Middle School, Urban, African American or Black, School-based, Aggression, Cost

Program information last updated 12/12/2012.

Subscribe to Child Trends

Short weekly updates of recent research on children and youth.