Development of the Social Ecology Model of Adolescent Interpersonal Violence Prevention (SEMAIVP). (Research Papers)

By Riner, Mary E.; Saywell, Robert M. | Journal of School Health, February 2002 | Go to article overview

Development of the Social Ecology Model of Adolescent Interpersonal Violence Prevention (SEMAIVP). (Research Papers)


Riner, Mary E., Saywell, Robert M., Journal of School Health


Few empirically tested theoretical models of adolescent violence prevention exist to guide development of effective prevention programs. Without simple yet comprehensive models, professionals find it difficult to develop effective prevention programs that address the major contributors to interpersonal violence among adolescents.

Schools receive adolescents who daily must deal with emerging lifestyles that tolerate weapons, drugs, and dysfunctional behavior. Adolescents bring the impact of these experiences to school. Social ecology offers a framework for understanding the complexity of adolescent violence. It provides an inclusive basis for schools, youth service agencies, juvenile justice organizations, and community groups to collaborate and provide multilevel prevention and intervention strategies. (1,2)

Adolescent violence represents a significant public health problem ranging in seriousness from pushing, shoving, and fighting to criminal acts in which adolescents become both victims and perpetrators. The incidence of adolescent interpersonal violence began to increase in the 1980s, peaked in the 1990s and, while declining since 1994, remains higher now than in the mid 1980s. (3) The Youth Risk Behavior Survey recorded this decline in interpersonal violence. Between 1991 and 1997, the percentage of 12- to 17-year-old adolescents who reported involvement in a physical fight decreased from 42.5% to 36.6%; the percentage of students injured in a physical fight decreased from 4.4% to 3.5%; and the percentage of students in a physical fight on school property decreased from 16.2% to 14.8%. (4)

Interpersonal violence is often viewed as one of several delinquency problems associated with adolescence. Social ecology models have been used to study drug use, (5) alcohol use, (6,7) problem behaviors, (8) and aggression. (9-11) A social ecology model views patterned behavior of individuals or aggregates as the outcomes of interest. (12-14) In this study the patterned behavior was avoidance of or engagement in interpersonal violence. Behavior was viewed as being both affected by, and affecting, multiple levels of influence. A social ecology model can accommodate these complex, multifaceted variables in the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and physical environments in which adolescents live, go to school, and spend their leisure time. (8-10,12)

From a health promotion viewpoint social ecology addresses the importance of interventions directed at interpersonal, organization, community, and public policy, all factors which support and maintain healthy behavior. Social ecology models assume that appropriate changes in the social environments will produce desirable changes in individuals, and that the support of individuals in the population is essential for implementing environmental changes. (14)

THE MODEL

This project verified and extended the Social Development Model (9) and the Social Ecology Mode (15) with the addition of neighborhood aesthetics, neighborhood fighting, and anger control as proposed in the Social Ecology Model of Adolescent Interpersonal Violence Prevention (SEMAIVP). The SEMAIVP (15) was developed to identify variables associated with violence avoidance and violence engagement among adolescents. The model's three independent components include health behavior interventions, population demographics, and the environment (Figure 1). These three components influence an adolescent's avoidance of or engagement in violence.

The health behavior intervention component includes skill development opportunities, involvement in activities, and positive recognition for nonviolence efforts, all components of the Social Development Model, (9) prominent in delinquency theory (16) and in social ecology interventions. (17,18) According to Hawkins and Weis, (9) positive socialization occurs when youth become involved in conforming activities, when they develop skills necessary to be successfully involved in social activities, and when those with whom they interact consistently reward their desired behaviors.

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