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Ages 5-11

Rating: Level 1


PeaceBuilders is a schoolwide violence prevention program for elementary and middle schools (K–8). A high school program is also being piloted in several locations. The program incorporates a strategy to change the school climate created by staff and students and is designed to promote prosocial behavior among students and adults. Children learn six simple principles: 1) praise people, 2) avoid put-downs, 3) seek wise people as advisers and friends, 4) notice and correct hurts you cause, 5) right wrongs, and 6) help others. Adults reinforce and model behaviors at school, at home, and in public places.

The underlying theory is that youth violence can be reduced by initiating prevention early in childhood, increasing children’s resilience, and reinforcing positive behaviors. This point of view also hypothesizes that aggressive behavior can be reduced by altering the school environment to emphasize rewards and praise for prosocial behavior. PeaceBuilders includes four components: 1) parent education, 2) marketing to families, 3) collateral training, and 4) mass media tie-ins.

Nine broad behavior-change techniques are used: 1) common language for community norms, 2) story and live models for positive behavior, 3) environmental cues to signal desired behavior, 4) role-plays to increase range of responses, 5) rehearsals of positive solutions after negative events and response cost as “punishment” for negative behavior, 6) group and individual rewards to strengthen positive behavior, 7) threat reduction to reduce reactivity, 8) self- and peer-monitoring for positive behavior, and 9) generalization promotion to increase maintenance of change across time, places, and people.


This program was evaluated using an experimental design with pretest and posttest measures. Eight elementary schools (grades K–5) in Pima County, Ariz., were selected from two large school districts to participate on the basis of their having high rates of juvenile arrests and histories of suspensions and expulsions. All participating schools remained in the study through the first 2 intervention years. Before baseline data collection, the eight project schools were matched into four pairs, primarily on the basis of geographic proximity. Four schools were then randomly assigned as PeaceBuilders immediate intervention schools and began the program immediately following baseline data collection, in fall 1994. The remaining schools began the PeaceBuilders program in 1995, after 1 year of baseline data collection, and are thereafter referred to as PeaceBuilders-delayed (PBD) schools. PBD schools received $1,000 compensation in year 1 as an incentive for them not to engage in any PeaceBuilders program–related activities. The sample consisted of 4,679 students; 51 percent were Hispanic, 28 percent white, 13 percent Native American, 6 percent African-American, and 1.5 percent Asian-American.


The evaluation found that from August 2000 through February 2001 there was an 89 percent decrease in physical aggression. Further, from February to May 2000 there was an 82 percent decrease in verbal aggression. When visits to the school nurse were analyzed, results indicated that between 1993–94 and 1994–95, the rate of weekly injury-related visits per thousand student-days significantly decreased—by 12.6 percent—in the intervention schools, with no significant change observed in the control schools. Rates of confirmed fighting-related injuries did not change significantly in the intervention schools but increased 56 percent in the control schools.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Early onset of aggression and/or violence


  • Inadequate school climate/Poorly organized and functioning schools/Negative labeling by teachers


  • Association with delinquent and/or aggressive peers

Protective Factors


  • Positive / Resilient temperament
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • High expectations of students
  • High quality schools / Clear standards and rules
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Rewards for prosocial school involvement


  • Involvement with positive peer group activities


  • Department of Education


Embry, Dennis D., Daniel J. Flannery, Alexander T. Vazsonyi, Kenneth E. Powell, and Henry Atha. 1996. “PeaceBuilders: A Theoretically Driven, School-Based Model for Early Violence Prevention.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 12(5):91–100.

Flannery, Dennis J., Alexander T. Vazsonyi, Albert K. Liau, Shenyang Guo, Kenneth E. Powell, Henry Atha, Wendy Vesterdal, and Dennis D. Embry. 2003. “Initial Behavior Outcomes for the PeaceBuilders Universal School-Based Violence Prevention Program.” Developmental Psychology 39(2):292–308.

Krug, Etienne G., Nancy D. Brener, Linda L. Dahlberg, George W. Ryan, and Kenneth E. Powell. 1997. “The Impact of an Elementary School–Based Violence Prevention Program on Visits to the School Nurse.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 13(6):459–63.


Michelle Molina
PeacePartners, Inc.
236 East Third Street, Suite 217
Long Beach, CA 90802–3174
Phone: (877) 473-2236
Fax: (562) 590-3902
Web site: