Corvo, K.N. (1997, March). Community-based youth violence prevention. Youth & Society, 28(3), 29l-3l6.
Youth leaders, new and experienced, need to learn more about preventing kids from becoming involved in violence and other criminal activities. In his article, Corvo offers key insight into issues that youth leaders and others should consider when developing a prevention program for their own community.
The Gund Foundation continually strives to understand and assess the different problems facing youth in today. Over the past two years, the Foundation has spent time and money researching the causes of the increase in youth violence and possible ways to address and prevent violent behavior.
The first step in violence prevention is to research and define the problem that the community is having with violence. There are different methods that a community can use to identify any local problems; they need to look beyond their personal beliefs about the problem to truly analyze the dilemma:
It is overly simplistic to assume that the conditions relevant to youth violence at the national level are identical to those in a local community.
In other words, it is important for a community to assess their local needs—not the needs of the entire nation. Each community should appraise their own situation and devise a program that works toward their needs.
A community attempting to organize a violence prevention program should consider devise a model that patterns an effective, established program. Unsuccessful programs have similar problematic characteristics evident from the beginning of the development of the program. In creating a program, a community should assert a strong, clear problem statement. Weak program statements are often simplistic, refraining from detailing the causes for the needs of the program.
There are many different models for developing a community program. Three will be highlighted in this discussion. The Public Health Model (PHM) is based on the biopsychosocial model emphasizing prevention. This model defines youth violence either as a disease or through a disease metaphor. A liability with this model is that it focueses on identifying individuals or environments at risk for delinquent activity before the behavior has taken place; this suggests that any intent to address the issue or improve psychosocial functioning can be labeled as "youth violence prevention." There are many alternative methods of intervention than the PHM model. These models include individual, family, and community factors broader in definition than the PHM model.
School-based conflict resolution programs are also worthy of consideration. These programs attempt to reduce teenage violence by teaching alternative, nonviolent methods of solving problems. These programs are popular and are offered in many different schools across America. There are criticisms to conflict resolution programs: violent behavior has not been proven preventable with education. Others suggest that these programs do not address the different problems that adolescents might have. Programs should allow for some kind of versatility for the people who go through it. Closely related to conflict resolution programs are programs that teach social skills.
Family intervention programs "attempt to affect youth violence through altering family organizations, functioning, relationships, or parenting styles." These types of programs train parents and communities on positive parenting styles, providing practical methods for families to use when facing problems with a young delinquent. These programs are designed to avert very young delinquents behavior; such programs are generally less effective as the child grows older.
While the public health, school-based, and family intervention models are the predominant models for addressing the violent behavior of youth, other types of programs are also endorsed. These include gang and peer intervention, reducing firearm availability to teenagers, mentoring, and community building.
In developing a prevention program for violence in any neighborhood, it is important that the planners and supporters brainstorm creative, effective ways to address the specific problems they are attempting to solve. Collaboration with other organizations and programs often generates more powerful solutions. This includes researching the imminent problems and developing assessable, trackable goals while the program grows in both stature and worth.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
- What have you learned about violence prevention techniques from this article? Are the techniques compatible with your experience in working on violence prevention? Explain.
- What are some of the violence problems in your community?
- What different methods have you used or witnessed to address problems of violence?
- Which model do you believe best addresses the issues in your community? How would you adjust this model to work in your community?
- From this article, have you noted any improvements or adaptations to make to your programs?
- There is no "quick-fix" method of violence prevention.
- Youth leaders need to recognize different problems facing their youth and design methods to effectively address these problems.
- Programs need to be designed with a particular community in mind. A program that works in one city or in one neighborhood will not necessarily work in other cities or neighborhoods.
- With the emergence of juvenile violence, it is important that community and church leaders understand how to recognize violent youth and develop ways to address violent situations.
Catharine Lepic cCYS