In 2001, APA co-developed the ACT-Adults and Children Together-Against Violence program to teach adults to be positive role models for children by nonviolently resolving conflicts and controlling their anger and frustration.
The early childhood violence prevention initiative-created with the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Ad Council-does this by training psychologists, social workers, teachers and other professionals who work with families and adults to teach violence-prevention skills. Such skills as managing anger, social problem-solving, positive discipline and media literacy can help adults model-and teach-nonviolent behaviors to children, says Julia Silva, APA's ACT training program director.
Professionals also learn how to spread ACT's nonviolence messages and materials through training, workshops and other initiatives in their own communities.The program is also providing psychology graduate students with research opportunities. Last year, students Michelle Guttman and Jessica Miguel conducted surveys to assess the program's effectiveness in helping trainees gain knowledge and change their behavior and attitudes.
And next year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Unintentional Injury is partnering with ACT to offer a $1,500 grant to a graduate student interested in researching injury or violence prevention (see box).
Since its launch, the program has trained more than 100 community coordinators through an annual APA workshop and reached more than 30,000 adults nationwide.
The program has also launched three national radio, billboard and newspaper ad campaigns to educate parents about the negative effects of everyday aggression.
CALLING ATTENTION TO ACT
As an undergraduate, Guttman's original major was education. However, after learning about violence's effects on children, she decided she wanted to address that directly, and she switched her major to psychology.
And since Guttman's Pace University graduate adviser Barbara Mowder, PhD, trained her in ACT in 2003, she has been interested in evaluating the program's effectiveness.
"After receiving training, I thought that ACT was a good way to encompass everything that [a professional] could need to teach nonviolence," she says. "But there was no evidence as to whether people's knowledge of nonviolence methods actually changed."
To fill that niche, Guttman evaluated 277 early childhood professionals and doctoral students about their nonviolence knowledge before providing ACT training to them. Her aim was to examine whether the ACT training program increases people's nonviolence knowledge and whether participants' perceptions of their knowledge changes.
After the training, Guttman administered four questionnaires to the participants. She found that the training program did increase participants' knowledge and perceived competence in violence prevention, which provides evidence that the training program is an effective early childhood violence prevention program.
"I hope my paper causes more people to pay attention to ACT's effectiveness," says Guttman, whose dissertation is currently under review at the journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.
Jessica Miguel, a second-year Humboldt State University counseling psychology student, added to those results when she found that ACT trainees sustain and even slightly increase their knowledge three months after training.
To reach her finding, she tested 51 trainees' child development and nonviolent problem-solving knowledge, such as specific ways to put a nonviolence campaign program in place, before, immediately after and three months after ACT training. In all three intervals, the participants also filled out self-report questionnaires about their perceptions of their own knowledge of, and skills in, violence prevention. Miguel also objectively measured participants' knowledge of violence prevention and child development by asking the participants how they would respond to typical childhood dilemmas.
In addition to finding that the trainees retain and increase their knowledge, Miguel found that participants felt confident in their ability to work with children to teach them nonviolence techniques.
ACT will use Guttman and Miguel's results, as well as the findings from an upcoming National Center for Injury Prevention and Control study to fine-tune ACT's training program, says Silva.
"[The evaluations] are helping us build toward a more effective model of the project," she says.
Apply for violence-prevention grant
The antiviolence campaign ACT–Adults and Children Together–Against Violence and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Unintentional Injury are partnering to offer a $1,500 grant to a graduate student interested in researching injury or violence prevention. For more information, contact Julia Silva. The deadline for proposals is Jan. 31.