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The Impact of a Middle School Program to Reduce Aggression, Victimization, and Sexual Violence

NCJ Number
Journal of Adolescent Health Volume: 53 Issue: 2 Dated: 2013 Pages: 180-86
Dorothy L. Espelage; Sabina Low; Joshua R. Polanin; Eric C. Brown
Date Published
7 pages

This paper reports on a nested cohort longitudinal study involving sixth graders from various middle schools, to determine the effectiveness of the Second Step: Student Success Through Prevention program, which aimed to reduce aggression through social-emotional learning.


The authors’ goal for this study was to evaluate the impact of the Second Step: Student Success Through Prevention (SS-SSTP) Middle School Program on reducing youth violence including peer aggression, peer victimization, homophobic name calling, and sexual violence perpetration and victimization among middle school sixth-grade students. The study design was a nested cohort longitudinal study. The authors randomly assigned 18 matched pairs of 36 middle schools to the SS-SSTP or control condition. Teachers implemented 15 weekly lessons of the sixth-grade curriculum that focused on social emotional learning skills, including empathy, communication, bully prevention, and problem-solving skills. All sixth graders in intervention and control conditions completed self-report measures assessing verbal/relational bullying, physical aggression, homophobic name calling, and sexual violence victimization and perpetration before and after the implementation of the sixth-grade curriculum. Results of the multilevel analyses revealed significant intervention effects regarding physical aggression. The adjusted odds ratio indicated that the intervention effect was substantial; individuals in intervention schools were 42 percent less likely to self-report physical aggression than students in control schools. We found no significant intervention effects for verbal/relational bully perpetration, peer victimization, homophobic teasing, and sexual violence. Within a one-year period, the authors noted significant reductions in self-reported physical aggression in the intervention schools. Results suggest that SS-SSTP holds promise as an efficacious prevention program to reduce physical aggression in adolescent youth. Publisher Abstract Provided