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413 Brief communication BENEFITS OF VIOLENCE PREVENTION FOR AFRICAN-AMERICAN YOUTH To THE editor: Hammond and Yung's study [Vol. 2, No. 3:359-373] suggesting the value of teaching minority youth social skills may be a significant contribution to the emerging body of literature on interpersonal violenceprevention strategies. The authors trained at-risk youth in a number of interpersonal skills, used observers and self-reports to determine changes in skill levels, and compared school suspensions before and after training and between intervention and control groups. Although the study group is very small and the criteria for exclusion from the intervention group are not specified , I believe the approach is promising. As this research continues, it would be helpful if the authors could establish the correlation between specific social skills and students' violent behavior. The authors' conclusions are consistent with our study1, funded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), of 564 violent African-American youth and adults in Kansas City, Missouri. We were able to demonstrate a statistically significant reduction in arrests for assault among members of our intervention group six to 12 months after our 10 hours of training in conflict resolution and anger control. As in the Hammond and Yung study, we found that youth with the greatest deficiencies in skills benefited most from our program. We did not think, however, that our intervention was as successful when located on the school premises as it was off-site. Peer pressure to continue established patterns of aggression seemed to be more prominent at the schools than when we moved the teens to another location, even if it was less than a block away. The authors cite questions on research on the cycle of violence. One survey we conducted of 16 families of homicide victims showed that one-third had experienced other homicides in the family. One teen in our project was unable to start our classes because her mother had been involved in a homicide that day. On the other hand, we received anecdotal reports of participants who recognized their involvement in escalating conflicts that would have turned violent had the participants not used their new-found skills. These examples, as well as my experience with prison inmates, lead me to believe firmly in both Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, Vol. 2, No. 4, Spring 1992 414__________________________________________________________ a subculture of violence and a cycle of violence which can be broken. I believe there is enough evidence of the existence and costs of this cycle of violence, and of the potential benefits of intervention, that we should be teaching relevant local agencies to identify teens involved in the cycle and to provide interventions . My greatest concern with the paper is the statement that "current federal health agency efforts in the area of violence prevention resemble the heavily funded response to biological epidemics such as AIDS." This is simply not true. Research to prevent interpersonal violence is funded at a fraction of the amount devoted to AIDS or most other infectious or chronic diseases. CDC currently spends less than $2 million per year on intramural and extramural violenceprevention research. Mark A. Mitchell, M.D., M.P.H., FACPM Former Principal Investigator Kansas City Interpersonal Violence Prevention Project; Director Hartford Health Department 80 Coventry Street Hartford, CT 06112 REFERENCE 1. Mitchell M. Forum on youth violence in minority communities. The Kansas City project. Public Health Rep 1991 May-Jun;106(3):237. Drs. Hammond and Yung respond: YJe appreciate MarkMitcheir s comments and are especially pleased tolearnthat our findings show consistency with Dr. Mitchell's own CDC-funded research. His comment on our statement comparing current violence-prevention efforts to the response to the AIDS epidemic is a point well taken. We certainly did not mean to imply that present levels of federal funding to combat these two health problems are comparable , and weare in absolute agreement that violence-prevention programs arecurrently drastically underfunded. Our intent was to point out that an increasing amount of attention from federal agencies is being directed to this health issue, and that this concern has begun to set in motion a response within the health community that reflects the realization that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-6869
Print ISSN
1049-2089
Pages
pp. 413-414
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
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