| Panel Finds that Scare Tactics for Violence Prevention are Harmful
Good news is that positive approaches show promise
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 naïve. 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 adolescent violence registry, and greater emphasis
on economic research into the cost-effectiveness of intervention
to prevent violence.
The panel released its findings in a public session this morning,
following two days of expert presentations and panel deliberations.
The full text of the panel's draft statement will be available late
today at http://consensus.nih.gov.
The final version will be available at the same Web address in three
to four weeks. Statements from past conferences and additional information
about the NIH Consensus Development Program are also available at
the Web site, or by calling 1-888-644-2667.
The panel is independent and its report is not a policy statement
of the NIH or the Federal Government. The NIH Consensus Development
Program, of which this conference is a part, was established in
1977 as a mechanism to judge controversial topics in medicine and
public health in an unbiased, impartial manner. NIH has conducted
119 consensus development conferences, and 23 state-of-the-science
(formerly "technology assessment") conferences, addressing
a wide range of issues.
The conference was sponsored by the Office of Medical Applications
of Research and the National Institute of Mental Health, of the
NIH. Cosponsors included the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences
Research, the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,
the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the
National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Nursing
Research, the National Library of Medicine, the Agency for Healthcare
Research and Quality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the
U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The 13-member panel included practitioners and researchers in community
and family medicine, pediatrics, nursing, psychiatry, behavioral
health, economics, juvenile justice, outcomes research, and a public
representative. The panel reviewed an extensive collection of scientific
literature related to youth violence prevention, including a systematic
literature review prepared by the Southern California Evidence-Based
Practice Center, under contract with the Agency for Healthcare Research
and Quality. A summary of the Evidence Report on Preventing Violence
and Related Health-Risking Social Behaviors in Adolescents is available
The archived webcast of the conference sessions will be available
shortly at http://consensus.nih.gov/.
Note to TV Editors: The news conference at 2 p.m. today will be
broadcast live via satellite on the following coordinates:
Galaxy 3 Transponder 02 C-Band
Orbital slot: 95 degrees West
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Test time: 1:30 p.m. ET
Broadcast: 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. ET
Note to Radio Editors: An audio report of the conference results
will be available after 4 p.m. today from the NIH Radio News Service
by calling 1-800-MED-DIAL (1-800-633-3425).
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