The North Carolina Youth Violence Prevention Center: Using a multifaceted, ecological approach to reduce youth violence in impoverished rural areas

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Smokowski, Paul R., et al. “The North Carolina Youth Violence Prevention Center: Using a multifaceted, ecological approach to reduce youth violence in impoverished rural areas.” Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, vol. 9, no. 4, Dec. 2018, pp. 575-97.


This article provides detailed descriptions (enhanced by several figures and talbes), and a synthesis of the results, for three evidence-based projects carried out in Robeson County, North Carolina by the North Carolina Youth Violence Prevention Center (NC-YVPC).

The objective of the NC-YVPC was to employ a “multifaceted approach to target[ing] risk and protective factors that were relevant to the needs of the target community and were present across adolescents’ ecology” (p. 577).

In their overview of NC-YVPC, the authors note that Robeson County has one of the highest rates of youth violence in North Carolina; has youth death rates and age-adjusted homicide rates significantly higher than the norm for North Carolina as a whole; is one of the most racially/ethnically diverse rural counties in the United States; has a rate of residents living below poverty that is more than twice the national average; and for several years in a row (2011-2016) had the highest rate of corporal punishment use in the publics schools in North Carolina (p. 578).

As a countering force, Robeson County has residents who are strongly bonded to their community (particularly, the 40% of residents who are members of the Lumbee Tribe). This factor allowed NC-YVPC to establish an advisory council of key county leaders to help facilitate its projects.

The three projects the article discusses are summarized below:

—Positive Action: a school based intervention program implemented in 13 Robeson County middle schools, reaching all sixth, seventh, and eighth graders with curricula to teach positive adolescent behaviors designed to “improv[e] academic achievement, school attendance, problem behaviors (e.g., violence, disruptive behaviors), parent-child bonding, family cohesion, and family conflict” (p. 581).

Parenting Wisely: This parent training program included 10 video modules teaching 15 skills designed to “increase parenting knowledge and decrease adolescent problem behaviors” (p. 581). The program was offered to all Robeson County parents who had an adolescent aged 11-5. For parents who chose to participate, program completion rates were very high.

Teen Court: This program alowed teen offenders who admitted their guilt, to be assigned prosocial sanctions rather than going through formal juvenile court proceedings. Teen offenders were referred to Teen Court by “juvenile court counselors, school resource officers, district court, and principals . . . when an adolescent’s case was a good fit for the program” (p. 583).

The article’s conclusion states that NC-YVPC projects “were associated with a 47% reduction in non-school-based offenses, a 31% reduction in undisciplined/delinquent complaints, and an 81% reduction in the use of corporal punishment, along with smaller reductions in school-based offenses, short-term suspensions, and assaults” (p. 592)

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The following are especially useful: —Table 1 (a comparison of Robeson County; Columbus County (the nearby no-treatment comparison); North Carolina; and the United States, on factors relevant to the programs discussed in this article (p. 579); —Table 2, “Summary of NC-YVPC Youth Violence Prevention Initiative results” (for each of the three programs, this table lists data-based evidence of improvements) (p. 587). —The website for the program’s data, North Carolina Academic Center for Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention (listed in the article’s References) had been deactivated when checked on September 20, 2019.