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Violence Prevention Curriculum for Adolescents

Ages 12-18

Rating: Level 3


The Violence Prevention Curriculum for Adolescents (VPC) provides adolescents with information on risk factors for interpersonal violence and skills for choosing alternatives to fighting. The 10- to 18-session curriculum uses lectures, discussions, and interactive role-plays. Sessions generally last 40 minutes. The goals of the curriculum are to 1) illustrate that violence is preventable, 2) teach students that anger is a normal part of life and that anger can be expressed and channeled in healthy, constructive ways, 3) help students understand that controlling anger and violence is part of maturing, 4) identify positive ways for students to express their anger, and 5) help them think about and use alternatives to violence in conflict situations. VPC is part of the Teenage Health Teaching Modules program, a comprehensive school health education curriculum for adolescents.


This program was evaluated by two separate studies. The first used a quasi-experimental design with comparison groups. The study examined the effectiveness of the VPC curriculum on 978 sixth grade students from six different schools. The curriculum was put into practice using a staggered implementation design; students received the curriculum during different semesters to allow comparisons between treatment and no-treatment groups. Participants were asked to complete the subscales: the Violent Behavior Scale, the Problem Behavior Scale, and the Drug Use Scale from the Behavioral Frequency Scale. Baseline data was collected to ensure there were no significant differences between the treatment groups at pretest and to test for attrition.

The second study examined the impact of two intervention conditions on 1,523 sophomore high school students’ suspension rates. The first condition was the VPC curriculum. The second condition was a schoolwide violence prevention initiative, which included various violence prevention activities, such as school presentations on violence prevention and seminars on death and dying. A prospective design using archival data was used to track three panels of students over their sophomore and junior years. School records provided access to relevant independent variables such as age, gender, ethnicity, standardized test scores, and absenteeism. These two conditions were compared with a nonexposed comparison group. Each condition was nonrandomly assigned to a high school. The schoolwide violence prevention initiative was analyzed for 3 consecutive years (1985–87). The class-specific educational intervention was combined with the schoolwide initiative and analyzed in 1 year only (1986).


The first study suggested that the curriculum reduced the immediate risk of becoming a perpetrator or victim of violence for boys, but not for girls. Specifically, the study found significantly lower frequencies of armed threats and physical fighting for boys in the curriculum versus the comparison group. Moreover, boys receiving the curriculum showed significantly lower rates of problem behavior and drug use. No significant effects were noted for girls or for the overall curriculum sample.

The results of the second study indicate that students receiving the in-class curriculum showed a 71 percent reduction in suspension rates, while the nonclassroom participants showed no change in their suspension rates. Students in the schoolwide exposure condition showed a decrease in suspension rates, but these results were statistically insignificant. Overall, results suggest that violence prevention education can reduce negative school behaviors, particularly when supplemented by other supportive curricula and activities.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Early onset of aggression and/or violence
  • Lack of guilt and empathy
  • Life stressors
  • Poor refusal skills
  • Victimization and exposure to violence


  • Family history of the problem behavior/Parent criminality
  • Family management problems/Poor parental supervision and/or monitoring
  • Family transitions
  • Family violence
  • Pattern of high family conflict
  • Poor family attachment/Bonding
  • Sibling antisocial behavior


  • Dropping out of school
  • Inadequate school climate/Poorly organized and functioning schools/Negative labeling by teachers
  • Low academic achievement
  • Negative attitude toward school/Low bonding/Low school attachment/Commitment to school
  • School suspensions
  • Truancy/Frequent absences


  • Community crime/High crime neighborhood
  • Neighborhood youth in trouble
  • Social and physical disorder/Disorganized neighborhood


  • Association with delinquent and/or aggressive peers
  • Gang involvement/Gang membership
  • Peer alcohol, tobacco, and/or other drug use
  • Peer rejection

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • High expectations
  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • Positive / Resilient temperament
  • Positive expectations / Optimism for the future
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • Effective parenting
  • Good relationships with parents / Bonding or attachment to family
  • Opportunities for prosocial family involvement
  • Rewards for prosocial family involvement


  • High quality schools / Clear standards and rules
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Rewards for prosocial school involvement
  • Student bonding (attachment to teachers, belief, commitment)


  • Clear social norms / Policies with sanctions for violations and rewards for compliance
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Prosocial opportunities for participation / Availability of neighborhood resources


  • Good relationships with peers
  • Involvement with positive peer group activities


Farrell, Albert D., and A.L. Meyer. 1997. “The Effectiveness of a School-Based Curriculum for Reducing Violence Among Urban Sixth Grade Students.” American Journal of Public Health 87:979–84.

Hausman, A.J.; G. Pierce; and L. Briggs. 1996. “Evaluation of Comprehensive Violence Prevention Education: Effects on Student Behavior.” Journal of Adolescent Health 19:104–10.


Erica Macheca
Education Development Center, Inc.
55 Chapel Street
Newton, MA 02458
Phone: (617) 969-7100
Fax: (917) 969-5951
Web site: