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Qualitative Lessons From a Community-Based Violence Prevention Project with Null Findings

NCJ Number
New Directions for Evaluation Issue: 110 Dated: Summer 2006 Pages: 5-17
Kirk R. Williams; Sabrina Arredondo Mattson
Date Published
13 pages
This article presents the methodology and findings from the evaluation of the Youth Handgun Violence Prevention Project (YHVPP) conducted in the Denver Metropolitan Area from July 1999 to June 2002, which was intended to modify several factors associated with youth attitudes and behaviors regarding handguns.
The evaluation showed that although the YHVPP achieved its general objectives, there was no empirical evidence of the interventions' effectiveness in increasing anti-handgun attitudes, knowledge of legal consequences of handgun violations, or a decrease in handgun carrying. Still, the research provided important findings on youth's access to handguns. Perceived accessibility to handguns was associated with an increase in pro-handgun attitudes and handgun carrying at posttest. Moreover, perceiving handguns as safely locked was linked with a reduction in the perceived access to handguns. Thus, by reducing perceptions of handgun accessibility by increasing the use of locking mechanisms, and/or reducing guns' presence in homes should reduce perceptions of their accessibility and consequently their possession by youth. Qualitative observations identified characteristics of youth who seemed more receptive to the interventions, aspects of implementation that went well, and challenges and accomplishments. Four sources of information yielded these findings: exit focus groups, meeting notes, progress reports, and observations from the program office and the researchers. A pretest-posttest questionnaire was developed for participating youth. These youth were drawn from three youth service agencies that provided services primarily in the inner city. Two of the agencies provided counseling and educational, recreational, and life skills training for youth typically referred to courts for weapon violations, violent behavior, or other criminal activities. These two agencies implemented their interventions in their counseling and life-skills training groups. The third agency provided conflict resolution training for children, adolescents, and adults by teaching nonviolent methods for dealing with conflict and anger. 8 references