Shifting Boundaries is intended to reduce peer and dating violence and sexual harassment by students in middle schools. The program includes six classroom sessions and a school-wide component. An experimental study found that the program had many large and statistically significant positive impacts on (decreases in) violence victimization and perpetration in peer and dating relationships, but it also found increases in total violence victimization and perpetration in peer relationships in schools where only the school-wide component was implemented.
DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM
Target population: Middle school students
The Shifting Boundaries program is intended to reduce peer and dating violence and sexual harassment (DV/H) by students in middle schools. The program includes classroom-based curricula and school-level interventions. The classroom component consists of six sessions that emphasize the consequences for perpetrators of DV/H, state laws and penalties for DV/H, the construction of gender roles, and healthy relationships. The school-wide component includes the use of temporary school-based restraining orders, higher levels of security and faculty presence in ‘hot spots’ identified through student mapping, and posters to increase awareness and reporting of DV/H to school personnel.
EVALUATION OF PROGRAM
Evaluated Population: A total of 2,500 sixth- and seventh-grade students in 117 classrooms in 30 New York City public schools participated in the evaluation. The sample included 1,266 students (48 percent) in the 6th grade, and 1,388 students (52 percent) in the 7th grade. Students ranged in age from 10 to 15, with 94.5 percent falling in the 11- 13 range. Fifty-three percent of the overall sample was female. Similar to the city average for all NYC public school students, 34 percent were Hispanic, 31 percent African American, 16 percent Asian, 13 percent white, and the remainder “other.” Forty percent of the study sample had prior experience with a violence prevention educational program. Forty-eight percent reported at least one experience of being in a dating relationship that lasted one week or longer. About one in five respondents (19.4 percent) reported ever having been the victim of any physical or sexual dating violence. Two‐thirds of the students in the sample reported ever having been the victim of any physical or sexual peer violence. Twenty percent of respondents reported ever having perpetrated any physical or sexual dating violence. Fifty-seven percent reported ever having perpetrated any physical or sexual peer violence, and nearly half (46 percent) reported ever having sexually harassed someone.
Approach: Schools were randomly assigned to one of four study conditions: classroom component only, school-wide component only, both components, or neither component (the control group). Student-level data were collected in five areas: 1) knowledge about laws related to DV/H, resources for help, rape myths, and skills; 2) attitudes about the acceptability of violent, abusive, and harassing behaviors; 3) behavioral intentions to avoid committing violent acts in the future, and intentions to intervene when in the role of bystander; 4) DV/H behavior; and 5) prior history and demographic data. Data were collected at baseline, at the end of the program, and six months after the end of the program. Data were adjusted for clustering. Attrition was high (40 percent), with 12 sites that had completed baseline surveys not completing any follow-up surveys.
There were several differences among the groups at baseline. The control group had significantly fewer respondents who had ever dated someone. Variables where there were pre‐treatment differences were included as covariates in the analysis, so as to remove any potential biases the imbalances might have presented for the interpretation of results.
Results: Immediately post‐treatment, Shifting Boundaries was found to have had a statistically significant impact on (decrease in) the reported incidence of sexual victimization by a peer (odds ratio [OR]=.68), for students in the combined intervention arm, compared with students in the control group. Immediately post‐treatment, the reported frequency of sexual victimization by a peer was also significantly lower for students in the combined intervention arm, compared with students in the control group (incidence rate ratio [IRR]=.66). This finding persisted at six months post‐treatment, when the study found a 34 percent reduction in the incidence of sexual victimization by a peer (OR=.66) for students in the combined intervention arm, and for students in the school-wide only group (OR=.66), compared with students in the control group.
Further, the reported frequency of sexual victimization by a peer indicated the same positive impacts for both the building‐only and the combined classroom and school-wide only treatment groups. Six months post‐treatment, results indicated a reduction in the frequency of sexual victimization by peers for students in the school‐wide only treatment group (IRR=.65), and a reduction in the frequency of sexual victimization by peers for students in the combined treatment group (IRR=.60).
At the six-month follow-up, students assigned to the building‐only intervention group and to the combined classroom and school-wide intervention, reported a significantly lower incidence of perpetrating sexual violence on peers. The reduction was comparable for the two groups (school‐wide only OR=.52; combined intervention OR=.52) in comparison with the control group. In addition, the reported frequency significantly declined for students in the school‐wide group (IRR=.60), and the combined classroom and building group (IRR=.64) , compared with the control group. Immediately post‐treatment, the combined classroom and school-wide group was significantly associated with a reduction in the frequency of total victimization by a peer (IRR=.74). At the six‐month follow‐up point, the school‐wide only group had a significantly lower frequency of total victimization by a peer (IRR=.73), as did the students in the combined group (IRR=.67), in comparison with the control group.
At the six-month follow-up, the incidence of sexual victimization by a dating partner (OR=.50), and the frequency of such events (IRR=.47), were significantly lower for students in the school‐wide only group, compared with the control group.
Results for the school‐wide only group also indicated a significant reduction in the reported incidence of total violence by a dating partner (IRR=.46) at the six‐month follow‐up, compared with the control group. The reported frequency of total violence perpetration in a dating relationship by students in the school‐wide only group was significantly lower than the reported frequency among students in the control group (IRR=.49).
There were also a few statistically significant negative impacts, in which violence increased. At six months after the intervention, students in the school‐wide only group reported an 88-percent higher incidence of total victimization, compared with the control group. Both immediately post‐intervention (OR=1.45), and six months later (OR=1.53), students in the school‐wide only group reported a significantly greater incidence in total violence perpetrated, relative to students in the control group.
SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION
Taylor, B., Stein, N.D., Woods, D., Mumford, E. (2011). Shifting Boundaries: Final Report on an Experimental Evaluation of a Youth Dating Violence Prevention Program in New York City Middle Schools. Washington, DC. Prepared for the National Institute of Justice under Grant # 2008‐MU‐MU‐0010. Document number 236175.
KEYWORDS: Middle School, School-based, Males and Females (Co-ed), Urban, Dating Violence, Adolescents (12-17)
Program information last updated on 5/29/2015.