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PeaceBuilders

Program Goals/Target Population

The overall goal of the PeaceBuilders program is to reduce violence among youth. The program, targeted at students in grades K–12 in school and afterschool settings, uses several strategies to address social competence and aggressive behavior among students. The idea is to improve a school’s overall social climate and culture so as to foster positive communication between students and adults, as well as prosocial behavior among students.



Program Activities

The activities of the PeaceBuilders program are designed to alter the overall school environment and facilitate positive social interactions between students and adults. The techniques focus on promoting individual behavior change through interpersonal and social interactions, and are designed to be incorporated into students’ daily interactions. The strategies are implemented as part of the school’s everyday routine, rather than as a set number of sessions. Participants are taught common principles, opportunities to rehearse positive behavior, and rewards for practicing it.



Students are taught the following six principles: 1) praise people, 2) avoid putdowns, 3) seek wise people as advisers and friends, 4) notice and correct hurts that you cause, 5) right wrongs, and 6) help others. The program relies on the participation of teachers, parents, the school principal, and support staff to instill these principles in students. These adults are expected to teach, reinforce, and model these behaviors in order to foster the principles at school, at home, and in public places.



The program further uses nine broad behavior-change techniques designed to promote a prosocial school environment, including 1) common language for community norms, 2) story and live models for positive behavior, 3) environmental cues to signal desired behavior, 4) role play to increase range of responses, 5) rehearsals of positive solutions after negative events and explanations of the impact that negative behavior had on the environment, 6) group and individual rewards to strengthen positive behavior, 7) threat reduction to reduce reactivity, 8) self- and peer-monitoring for positive behavior, and 9) generalization promotion—a strategy that generalizes behavior change in individuals—to increase maintenance of change across time, places, and people. Ultimately, these techniques help promote the PeaceBuilders “way of life” in the school environment.



The program activities work to facilitate and reinforce positive behavior among students. Activities may include assembling in a “PeaceCircle,” in which students compliment one another for acts of helpfulness, friendship, and accomplishment; assigning “preferrals” to the principal’s office as rewards for good behavior; and writing mediation essays (known as “PeaceTreaties”) after behaving inappropriately. Staff and students are encouraged to use “praise notes” to reinforce positive behavior and provide support for others. Students also complete activities from a specially designed comic book in which they are the hero. In addition, PeaceBuilders rules and principles are prominently displayed throughout the school to serve as constant reminders of prosocial behavior.



Finally, PeaceBuilders addresses the impact of social context on the development of violent behavior in youths by including four components to influence the neighborhood, community, and media:




Parent education. This component is designed to help parents create solutions to reduce aggression in their children. It teaches parents ways to reduce TV watching and sibling fighting, as well as strategies to increase homework completion.



Marketing to families. This component is designed to make the program’s goals known to families. This is done through advertising in fast-food restaurants, toy manufacturing, and public health campaigns.



Collateral training. The program trains community volunteers who are interested in assisting with the PeaceBuilders program.



Mass media tie-ins. This component is designed to communicate the PeaceBuilders principles to the community in order to spread its positive message. It includes repetition and recognitions of specific tactics used in the program.



Program Theory

The underlying theory behind PeaceBuilders is that youth violence can be reduced by initiating prevention early in childhood, by increasing children’s resilience, and by reinforcing positive behaviors. This point of view further hypothesizes that aggressive behavior can be reduced by altering the school environment to emphasize rewards and praise for prosocial behavior. In theory, if positive behaviors are consistently reinforced and rewarded in schools, social competence among students will improve and violent behavior will decrease.



Additional Information

The program was first designed and studied in elementary and middle schools (K–8) and implemented in more than 1,200 schools and organizations nationwide, as of March 2011. As of March 2011, a high school program has been implemented at 24 locations since 2003, a preschool program at 24 locations since 2005, and an afterschool program at more than 150 sites since 2000.

Intervention ID
76
Ages

5 to 10

Rating
Promising
Outcomes


Study 1

Social Competence

In evaluating PeaceBuilders, Flannery and colleagues (2003) found overall significant consistent improvements among students in teacher-rated social competence and self-reported peace-building behavior by the end of the 1st school year, but inconsistent results in self-reported prosocial behavior. Increases in teacher-rated social competence were maintained for all K–5 students in treatment schools in times 3 and 4. Higher levels of peace-building and prosocial behavior were mostly maintained at times 3 and 4, but the results varied between age groups.


Teacher-rated social competence. By the end of the 1st school year (time 2), students in the K–2 PeaceBuilder schools received significantly higher teacher ratings of social competence compared to students in the control group. PeaceBuilder students in grades 3–5 received only moderately higher scores compared to students in the control group. At both time 3 and time 4, PeaceBuilder students in both grades K–2 and 3–5 received significantly higher teacher ratings of social competence compared to students in the control group.



Self-reported prosocial behavior. At time 2, students in the K–2 PeaceBuilder schools rated themselves as more prosocial compared to their peers in the control group. Students in grades 3–5 in PeaceBuilder schools rated themselves as less prosocial compared to their peers in the control group. At time 3, students in both grades K–2 and 3–5 PeaceBuilder schools reported higher prosocial behavior compared to students in the control schools. At time 4, students in grades K–2 PeaceBuilder schools reported significantly greater prosocial behavior compared to their control group peers, while students in grades 3–5 reported significantly lower prosocial behavior compared to their control group peers.



Self-reported peace-building behavior. At time 2, students in both grades K–2 and 3–5 PeaceBuilder schools rated themselves higher in peace-building behavior compared to the control group. These differences were maintained at time 3 and time 4; however, the effects began to subside by time 4.


Aggressive Behavior

Overall consistent significant reductions in teacher-reported aggressive behavior were found for all students by the end of the 1st school year. By the end of the first school year (time 2), PeaceBuilder students in both grades K–2 and 3–5 received significantly lower teacher-rated aggression scores compared to their peers in the control group. These effects were maintained at times 3 and 4.

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