Preventing Teen Violence

Mentoring and group counseling significantly lowered urban teen crime rates

(RxWiki News) Teaching teens impulse control and social awareness could be a cost-effective crime prevention plan. Residual benefits from this program could last a lifetime for at-risk youth.

A recent violence reduction program showed great results in keeping teenage boys out of trouble.

This program was designed to be implemented on a large scale for minimal expense when compared to the cost of crime.

"Think before you act."

Jens Ludwig, PhD, director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, oversaw a study in violence prevention in urban youth populations.

A study conducted by the University of Chicago Crime Lab followed violent crime arrests in a group of Chicago Public School boys as they participated in a violence reduction experiment.

Over 800 boys from the seventh to tenth grade participated in the program, Becoming A Man—Sports Edition, through the nonprofit groups Youth Guidance and World Sport Chicago.

The boys came from 18 different Chicago Public Schools during the 2009-2010 school year.

The study emulated a randomized trial to compare boys who participated in group counseling and mentoring to boys in the same circumstances who did not. There was a 44 percent decrease in arrests for violent crimes during the trial.

Other crimes like vandalism, trespassing and weapons possession were reduced by 36 percent. The likelihood of being sent to a juvenile detention facility was reduced by 53 percent.

School attendance and grade point averages also improved.

Study authors note that the positive results did not drop off once the program was over.

During the trial, the students played non-traditional sports that worked on strengthening their social awareness, impulse control, conflict resolution and personal accountability.

The study’s success has prompted the counseling and mentoring program to be extended to over 2,000 students over the course of three years.

Robert J. Zimmer, University of Chicago President, said, “The Crime Lab’s work is an important part of the University’s commitment in this regard, addressing some of the city’s most pressing social issues.”

Dr. Ludwig said, “The program costs around $1,100 per participant, while its impacts on criminal behavior generated benefits to society that are valued on the order of $3,600 to $34,000 per participant, depending on how we measure the costs of crime.”

“The benefit-cost ratios are on the order of 3:1 to 31:1.”

Michelle Adler Morrison, CEO of Youth Guidance, said, “This study proves that even with so much stacked against them, when given access to an innovative program that really provides the support and guidance they need, these young men can and will succeed.”

Each participant spent an average of 13 contact hours participating in the program.

Scott Myers, executive director of World Sports Chicago, said, “This has been a very powerful program and one that has demonstrated that sports can play a positive role in strengthening the social and emotional skills of young men in some of our most under-resourced communities.”

These study results from the University of Chicago Crime Lab were released on the University’s news website in July.

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Review Date: 
July 23, 2012