Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Intervention reduces dating violence perpetrated by boys

Surveys report that about one or two in every 10 high school students are hit, slapped, or beaten by someone they are dating. Researchers at the University of Toronto tested a school-based intervention to reduce the perpetration of dating violence, and found it was effective for boys but not girls.

The researchers recruited students in the ninth grade at 20 public schools, and then randomly selected 10 of the schools for the intervention. As a result, 968 students participated in a program called Fourth R: Skills for Youth Relationships, which emphasized interactive role playing and skills building. Another 754 students, who served as controls, participated in the usual health and education programs at the other schools.

When participants were surveyed two and a half years later, when they had reached 11th grade, the researchers found that 3% of the boys in the intervention reported hitting, slapping, or otherwise acting violently toward the people they were dating, compared with 7% of those in the control group. Moreover, boys in the intervention group who were sexually active were more likely than those in the control group to use condoms.

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