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Panel finds that scare tactics for violence prevention are harmful

BETHESDA, MARYLAND - Programs that rely on "scare tactics" to prevent children and adolescents from engaging in violent behavior are not only ineffective, but may actually make the problem worse, according to an independent state-of-the- science panel convened this week by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The panel, charged with assessing the available evidence on preventing violence and other health-risking behaviors in adolescents, announced today its assessment of the current research.

The panel found that group detention centers, boot camps, and other "get tough" programs often exacerbate problems by grouping young people with delinquent tendencies, where the more sophisticated instruct the more nave. Similarly, the practice of transferring juveniles to the adult judicial system can be counterproductive, resulting in greater violence among incarcerated youth.

"The good news is that a number of intervention programs have been demonstrated to be effective through randomized controlled trials," explained Dr. Robert L. Johnson, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, who chaired the state-of-the-science panel. "We were pleased to find several programs that work, and we hope that communities will adopt them and continue to develop other interventions that incorporate the features common to successful programs."

The panel highlighted two programs that are clearly effective in reducing arrests and out-of-home placements: Functional Family Therapy, and Multisystemic Therapy. Among the important characteristics that these programs have in common are a focus on developing social competency skills, a long-term approach, and family involvement.

The panel also identified strengths and weaknesses in the field of violence prevention research, and made a number of recommendations to shape future efforts. Among these, the panel advocated a national population-based adole
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Contact: Kelli Marciel
marcielk@od.nih.gov
301-496-4819
NIH/Office of the Director
15-Oct-2004


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