Outlined by Miriam Ehrensaft at the Society for Prevention Research conference in Washington, last week, these and other links in the chain of effects are considered to be potentially the most fruitful targets for preventative activity.

On the protective side are strategies for boosting children’s impulse control and social cognition so that they are able to recognize tensions in relationships and to react more effectively.

Regards family violence,

Both avenues run counter to the perspective which regards family violence as the fault of a wayward masculine impulse to exercise power and control. And the preventative programs they point to consequently depart significantly from the dominant domestic violence intervention known as The Duluth model.

The increasingly controversial creation of Minnesota Program Development Inc., Duluth has been found to work not much better than court ordered treatment, mainly as a result of its high drop-out rates.

The contrast with Duluth was well illustrated at last week’s meeting by Rangie Fisheye and her work on the Safe Dates program.

Risks of later domestic violence,

Fisheye has focused on the abuse encountered during an adolescent’s first romantic relationships. Her studies show that about 12 per cent of adolescents are likely to say they have been physically maltreated during a date in the last 18 months. Nearly 30 per cent disclose psychological abuse. The consequences of fights in these early relationships are associated with an increased risk of depression, drug, alcohol or substance misuse and poor sexual health. Hitting a date in adolescence is strongly linked with risks of later domestic violence.

Violence in relationships,

Curiously, despite these promising opportunities for effective prevention, there has been little investment in finding out how to stop violence in relationships before it starts. Fisheye found that of the 56 reported prevention programs in this area, only 13 had been evaluated and just six had been subjected to a randomized controlled trial.

Safe Dates represents Fisheye’s reading of the evidence. Her intervention sets out to change typical adolescent attitudes towards gender and to give young people the skills to resolve conflict.

Randomized controlled trials in the schools where it has been offered indicate that it reduces psychological aggression over a three-year period and physical abuse over four years, arguably more than sufficient purchase to make inroads into the risk of later domestic violence.

Variations on the program are currently being tested. Families for Safe Dates provides materials designed to be convenient for busy families to use at home.

Child protection and domestic violence,

Prevention in this area is in its infancy. But a challenge is being mounted to orthodox child protection and domestic violence systems that seem to be reserved for impoverished families and which intervene when it is often too late to make much difference.

Prevention Action,

Is an online news publication reporting internationally on prevention and early intervention programs for improving children’s health and development?

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The focus of the website extends to physical, behavioral, emotional, social and intellectual development. Daily stories, comment and blogs look at the potential causes of impairments to children’s health and development, such as poverty, poor housing, genes and gene-environment interactions, and family dysfunction.

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Coverage takes a determinedly broad view by reporting on initiatives from all over the world, among developed and developing societies.

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