Middle school provides a critical window of opportunity to teach young adolescents about healthy relationships and prevent teen dating violence. The Start Strong program utilized a multi-faceted approach to rally entire communities to promote healthy relationship behaviors among middle school students.
Program components included: i) educating and engaging youth in schools and out of school settings; ii) educating and engaging teen influencers, such as parents, older teens, teachers and other mentors; iii) changing policy and environmental factors in schools and communities; and iv) implementing effective communications/ social marketing strategies to change social norms.
Preventing Teen Dating Violence: Lessons Learned
Prevention in middle school matters.
There is a critical window of opportunity to teach young adolescents about healthy relationships and prevent violence among teens. Start Strong influenced two key factors related to attitudes toward teen dating violence and gender equality. We can speculate that continued and strengthened emphasis on improving attitudes towards gender equality and the acceptance of teen dating violence might ultimately decrease incidence among middle school students.
We need to better understand adolescents who experience teen dating violence at a young age.
While there is a growing body of knowledge on teen dating violence among older adolescents in high school, we need to better understand this young age group, especially adolescents who experience it at a young age. Students who experienced teen dating violence previously showed more positive results on some outcomes than students who did not report victimization or perpetration. These positive results, however, were inconsistent across measures and data collection waves.
More emphasis on engaging teachers in school-based violence prevention is needed.
Findings suggest a greater emphasis on engaging teachers in school-based violence prevention is needed to further reinforce desired messages in the school setting. Examples of potential school-wide efforts include: generating communication campaigns on how students can best respond to teen dating violence behaviors, educating all school staff about the core messages of a school-based curriculum in order to generalize effects, and providing administrative support to teachers on school-wide policies and practices related to teen dating violence.
There is more to learn on how best to prevent teen dating violence.
Start Strong evaluation results suggest that further refinement of programming related to teen dating violence would be beneficial, as would ongoing programming or booster sessions to maintain program effects. We can also speculate that dating relationships among middle school students are less stable than those found later in adolescence.