In Brief

A 13-week violence-prevention curriculum used with sixth-graders in two schools in Augusta, Ga., was so effective that the tenor of the schools was changed even six months later, according to researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

"The teachers and the administrators reported to us that there were marked changes in the classroom atmosphere," says Wake Forest University's Robert H. DuRant, PhD. "What they were finding is that the curriculum empowered the students to stand up to the instigators" of violence and aggression.

The study used the Peaceful Conflict Resolution and Violence Prevention Curriculum, a 13-module, skill-building curriculum based on social cognitive theory. The curriculum teaches students to identify situations that could result in violence, and seeks to boost their problem-solving, communication and conflict-resolution skills. The researchers used the program with nearly 300 sixth-graders who live in or around public housing in Augusta.

Two weeks after the 13-week curriculum ended, the frequency of the students' carrying concealed weapons decreased by 29 percent in the treatment group and slightly increased in the control group, which was comprised of sixth-graders at two other schools in Richmond County, Ga. In addition, the treatment group experienced a 39 percent decline in fights resulting in an injury requiring medical attention, while the control group had a 21 percent increase.

There was also a long-term effect on the learning environment. "It really changed the teaching atmosphere," DuRant says. "The teachers felt that it was easier to teach and that there was less disruption. The students would help govern what went on in the hallways and in the classrooms."

The Peaceful Conflict Resolution and Violence Prevention Curriculum was taught by a trained instructor during class-time slotted for health education. Now that the curriculum has proven successful, the study will continue, and the topics of the initial 13-week curriculum will be revisited during booster sessions in the seventh and eighth grades, DuRant says.

The study, co-authored by Shari Barkin, MD, and Daniel Krowchuk, MD, appears in the May issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health (Vol. 28, No. 5).

--J. COHEN