Oct 16, 2008


PeaceBuilders is a school-wide violence prevention program designed for elementary schools (K-5). The program aims to change school climate by promoting prosocial behavior and conflict resolution among students and school staff. The schools involved in the PeaceBuilders program reiterate positive behaviors by posting rules and principles of the program throughout the school as well as having students complete specialized program activities from a comic book. In addition, nine broad behavior-change techniques are employed by the program. An experimental evaluation using random assignment of eight schools found that after the program, children in participating schools experienced a decrease in physical and verbal aggression. Another study found the program to decrease visits to the home nurse.


Target population: Elementary schools students (K-5)

PeaceBuilders is a school-wide violence prevention program designed to reduce and prevent youth violence by promoting and rewarding prosocial behavior. Children at participating schools learn five principles: seek out opportunities to praise people, avoid put-downs, seek wise people as advisors and friends, notice and correct hurts we cause, and right wrongs. Teachers are taught nine different techniques for reinforcing these principles and promoting prosocial behavior. These techniques include self and peer-monitoring for positive behavior, setting community norms though common language, telling stories and act as models for positive behavior, using environmental cues to signal desired behavior, and promoting generalization to maintain positive behavior change across people, place, and time. In addition, teachers use role-plays and rehearsals of positive responses to negative events, to help children practice positive behavior and offer individual and group rewards to further strengthen positive behavior. Staff and adults at home model and reinforce behaviors.

Teachers and administrators attend a series of trainings over the first 3 to 4 months of the intervention (e.g., an orientation to the program, one half-day training, and weekly, on-site coaching). On a voluntary basis, they attend institutes and forums focused on implementation issues.


Flannery, D. J., Vazsonyi, A. T., Liau, A. K., Guo, S., Powell, K. E., Atha, H., Vesterdal, W., & Embry, D. (2003).  Initial behavior outcomes for the PeaceBuilders universal school-based prevention program.  Developmental Psychology, 39(2), 292-308.

 Evaluated population: Students at eight elementary schools (N=4128) in Pima County, Arizona, participated in this intervention. Eight elementary schools from two school districts were selected to participate in this program evaluation based on their high rates of juvenile arrests and histories of suspensions. In total 4,679 students (51% Hispanic, 28% White, 13% Native American, 6% Black) participated in this evaluation. Children came from families with household incomes that were distributed among the lower range of socioeconomic groups. The majority (63%) were from two-parent families, according to parent reports at time 2.

Approach: Eight schools were matched primarily on the basis of geographic proximity (and, by default, on the proportion of ethnically-diverse, English as a Second Language, and free-and-reduced lunch eligible students). These four matched pairs were then randomly assigned to either an immediate intervention group (PeaceBuilders Immediate; PBI) or a delayed intervention group (PeaceBuilders Delayed; PBD). The schools in the delayed control group were referred to as PeaceBuilders-delayed (PBD) schools.  The schools in the PeaceBuilders group participated in the program for two years while the PBD schools participated for one year.

Surveys were administered to students in Grades 3-5 at data collection points before, during, and after participation in the PeaceBuilders program. For Grades K-2, 50 percent of students were randomly selected to participate in a 20 item face-to-face interview. In addition, teachers completed a 45-item instrument for each student in their class. Teachers reported on students’ aggressive behavior and social competence. Students were asked to report how frequently they engaged in aggressive and prosocial (i.e., “peace building”) behavior.


Program impacts were found for all outcomes, with slightly stronger impacts reported for children in Grades 3 to 5 (older) than for children in Grades K to 2 (younger). This evaluation showed that schools participating in the PeaceBuilders program showed significant improvement in child social competence and prosocial behavior, particularly for younger children. In addition, PeaceBuilders schools showed significant decreases in aggressive behavior after one year of intervention when compared with nonintervention schools – this was true particularly for older children. Treatment effects were larger for students who scored higher on measures of aggression at baseline.  The rate of weekly injury-related visits to the school nurse significantly decreased at the treatment schools while there was no significant change in the control schools. On average, PBI students reported greater amounts of peace building behavior than PBD students. Long-term impacts on prosocial behavior were mixed, with positive effects on younger children at Time 3 (significant increases) and negative effects on older children (significant decreases). Finally, at Time 4, PBI students were rated as having higher levels of social competence in comparison to PBD students


Link to program curriculum:


Embry, D.D., Flannery, D. J., Vazsonyi, A. T., Powell, K. E., & Atha, H. (1996). PeaceBuilders: A theoretically driven, school-based model for early violence prevention. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 12(5), 91-100.

Flannery, D. J., Vazsonyi, A. T., Liau, A. K., Guo, S., Powell, K. E., Atha, H., Vesterdal, W., & Embry, D. (2003).  Initial behavior outcomes for the PeaceBuilders universal school-based prevention program.  Developmental Psychology, 39(2), 292-308.


Program categorized in this guide according to the following:

Evaluated participant ages:  early childhood; middle childhood / Program age ranges in Guide: 5-10

Program components: school-based

Measured outcomes: physical health; behavioral problems; positive citizenship

KEYWORDS: Early Childhood (0-5), Middle Childhood (6-11), School-based, Elementary School, Kindergarten, Physical Health, Behavioral Problems, Violence, Prosocial Behavior, Aggression, Hispanic or Latino, White or Caucasian, Native American or American Indian, Black or African American

Program information last updated: 10/16/08