Prior research with the Shifting Boundaries (SB) prevention program suggests that it can prevent adolescent relationship abuse and sexual harassment. We assessed the relative impact of a combined set of SB classroom (SBC) and SB building (school-wide; SBS) interventions on adolescent relationship abuse and sexual harassment outcomes when the program is delivered to all three grades in a middle school (full saturation) compared to when only two or one of the three grades receive it.
We randomly assigned 23 middle schools (1,764 students) in New York City to varying saturation levels of SB: 6th grade only, 6th and 7th grade, or 6th, 7th, and 8th grade.
Providing SB to only one grade level does just as well at preventing peer violence and adolescent relationship abuse as treating multiple grades. However, there was evidence that additional saturation led to sexual harassment reductions. Schools that delivered SB to 6th and 7th graders (compared to just 6th graders) reduced sexual harassment victimization 6 months post-treatment.
The results largely support a minimalist approach, in that SB may be effective in preventing peer violence and adolescent relationship abuse outcomes by delivery to one grade level. However, there is a need for more research to continue exploring the potential benefits of a saturated delivery of SB across all grades, building on our finding that 6th and 7th grade implementation of SB was more effective at reducing sexual harassment than 6th grade only implementation.
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In this report, we use the term Adolescent Relationship Abuse to represent physical, emotional, or sexual abuse within a dating relationship, the definition that CDC uses for teen dating violence (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed 2/11/11). More broadly, this problem has also been referred to as gendered adolescent interpersonal aggression (GAIA) (Smith et al. 2009). Where cited studies used the term teen dating violence, we also follow the language of the original research. We follow the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) definition of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in person or through electronic means, which can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature (Hill and Kearl 2011).
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Conflict of interest
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
The authors have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.
Research involving human subjects
Yes, and the research was approved by the NORC IRB
We obtained parental passive consent and active child assent for all participants.
This study (“A dating violence prevention program for each grade in middle school: A longitudinal multi- level experiment”) was funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (Grant # 2010-MU-MU-0008). The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views or the official position of NIJ or any other organization.
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Taylor, B.G., Mumford, E.A., Liu, W. et al. The effects of different saturation levels of the Shifting Boundaries intervention on preventing adolescent relationship abuse and sexual harassment. J Exp Criminol 13, 79–100 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-016-9277-8