Abstract: Preventing Gender-Based Violence in Adolescents: A Systematic Review of Intervention Studies (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Preventing Gender-Based Violence in Adolescents: A Systematic Review of Intervention Studies

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Molly McLay, MSW, LCSW, Doctoral Student, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Andrew Foell, MSW, MPP, Doctoral Student, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Wendy Auslander, PhD, Barbara A Bailey Professor of Social Work, Washington University in Saint Louis, St Louis, MO
Background and Purpose: One in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience gender-based violence (GBV) before age 18. Intervention is particularly needed in adolescence, where 20.9% of girls and 10.4% of boys report dating abuse in high school. To examine the effectiveness of preventative interventions in this area, a systematic review was conducted on adolescent GBV prevention interventions published from 2013 to present, following up on De Koker et. al.’s 2014 review. The present study addressed the following research questions: 1) What types of preventative interventions have been used to reduce GBV with adolescents? 2) What are the common outcomes across these studies? 3) What is the methodological quality of these studies? 4) What interventions are most effective in improving GBV-related outcomes when considering study methodological rigor?

Methods: A systematic search of 14 databases was conducted to identify publications. Studies were included for review if they: 1) were written in English; 2) were published in a peer-reviewed journal between January 2013 and February 2020; 3) evaluated an intervention; 4) utilized an experimental or quasi-experimental design with treatment and comparison groups; 5) were conducted in the U.S. with adolescents ages 10-19; 6) assessed knowledge, attitudes, skills, or behavior outcomes related to GBV. The Methodological Quality Rating Scale was adapted from Auslander et. al. (2012) to assess study rigor. Outcome attainment scores were assigned to each study, combining methodological rigor with statistical significance on the most common outcomes to rate the strength of evidence using the following scale: 3 = significant outcome, high rigor; 2 = significant outcome, low rigor; 1 = non-significant outcome, high or low rigor.

Results: Nineteen studies met inclusion criteria. Intervention types were split between lecture/discussion curricula (n=10) and experiential interventions (n=9). Outcomes varied, with most used in fewer than 50% of studies: perpetration behaviors (n=10); victimization experiences (n=9); knowledge (n=8); skills and self-efficacy (n=8); helping behaviors (n=7); attitudes and norms (n=7); and intentions to help (n=6). Methodological rigor was high, with a median score of 11 on a 14-point scale (M=11.11, SD=1.85). Lecture/discussion-based interventions (Mdn=11.5) had slightly higher rigor than experiential (Mdn=11). Strengths were treatment fidelity and appropriate data analyses. Studies showed substantial variation in intervention dosage, follow-up length, and multisite designs. Analysis of intervention effectiveness indicated that 6 of 10 studies found significant reductions in perpetration; 3 were lecture/discussion-based (n=7) and 3 were experiential (n=3). Likewise, 7 of 9 studies found significant reductions in victimization; 3 were lecture/discussion-based (n=5) and 4 were experiential (n=4). All experiential interventions measuring perpetration and/or victimization found significant positive effects on those outcomes.

Conclusions and Implications: Experiential interventions demonstrated stronger evidence (i.e., significant outcomes with high study rigor) for reducing perpetration and victimization compared to lecture/discussion-based interventions. Future research could explore cost-effectiveness and implementation feasibility for experiential interventions. High methodological rigor suggests current overall strength in adolescent GBV prevention research. Outcome consistency and an overall increase in intervention studies are needed so that future systematic reviews can determine what interventions are most effective at preventing adolescent GBV.