Violence prevention and young adolescents' participation in community youth service

Lydia O'Donnell, Ann Stueve, Alexi San Doval, Richard Duran, Rebecca Atnafou, Deborah Haber, Norma Johnson, Helen Murray, Uda Grant, Gregory Juhn, Julia Tang, Judith Bass, Patricia Piessens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Purpose: To examine whether participation in a school-sponsored community youth service program reduces self-reported violent behaviors among young urban adolescents. Methods: A total of 972 seventh- and eighth-grade students at two large, urban, public middle schools were surveyed at baseline and at 6-month follow-up. One school was assigned to interventions and the other served as a control. All students at the intervention school received the Reach for Health classroom curriculum that included a 10-lesson until focusing on violence prevention. In addition, approximately half the students were randomly assigned by classroom to participate in the Reach for Health Community Youth Service program (CYS). Under the guidance of teachers and community nurses, these students spent several hours each week providing service in local health care agencies. Regression analyses were used to assess the influence of treatment condition on violent behavior outcomes. Results: Comparing students in the curriculum-only and curriculum-plus-CYS interventions to the control group, there is a statistically significant interaction (p < .03) among grade, CYS participation, and violence at follow- up. Eighth-grade CYS students reported significantly less violence at follow- up than students in the control school, taking into account baseline level of risk behavior, gender, ethnicity, and social desirability (p < .04). There was no significant difference between controls and students in the curriculum-only condition. Comparing students in the CYS intervention to the curriculum-only condition within the intervention school, the grade by intervention interaction again is significant (p < .05). Eighth-grade CYS students - who received the broadest CYS experience - reported less violence at follow-up than their curriculum-only counterparts. Conclusion: When delivered with sufficient intensity, school programs which couple community service with classroom health instruction can have a measurable impact on violent behaviors of a population of young adolescents at high risk for being both the perpetrators and victims of peer violence. Community service programs may be an effective supplement to curricular interventions and a valuable part of multicomponent violence prevention programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-37
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent health
  • Community health promotion
  • Minority health
  • Service learning
  • Violence prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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