Healthy Relationships
Violence Prevention Curriculum
  July 27, 1998 News Release

Youth Learn Alternatives to Violence

Winnipeg — A Canadian violence-prevention curriculum is showing promising results at the end of the second year of a three-year ongoing evaluation in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Five hundred and seventy-seven Grade 7, 8, and 9 students in six schools are participating in a Teen Dating Violence study being carried out by Research and Education for Solutions to Violence and Abuse, University of Manitoba.

Developed by Men For Change of Halifax, Healthy Relationships: A Violence-Prevention Curriculum focuses on three principal areas: (a) emotional literacy, dealing with anger, and assertiveness; (b) gender stereotypes, TV violence, and media literacy; and (c) the abuse of power and control in relationships, sexual harassment, and teen dating violence. The pilot program has paired (a) with Grade 7 students, (b) with Grade 8 students, and (c) with Grade 9 students. Approximately one-fourth of the curriculum's activities are being taught in the study.

Asked to comment on the program's effect on the students, Principal Investigator Dr. Wendy Josephson, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Winnipeg, said: "We have results that suggest that Healthy Relationships is quite influential. We expected that in the third year we would see program-group students being less violent. But we are seeing behaviour changes now, particularly among the girls. Considering we're using such a short version of the curriculum, that's especially encouraging."

The following self-reported findings were true for the program groups, whereas the corresponding control groups showed little to no improvement.
    Girls reported using less physical violence, less psychological abuse, and fewer passive-aggressive tactics, and sustaining fewer injuries in both their friendships and their dating relationships.

    At the pre-test, there was no connection between boys' attitudes about violence and their physically violent behaviours. After the program, boys who were less approving of violence were also reporting less violent behaviours.

    When presented with a scenario involving verbal abuse, most students chose an aggressive response before taking the program, and an assertive response afterwards.

    Before the program, 48 per cent of students believed they could solve disagreements by talking it over, compared to 60 per cent afterwards.

    Students were more likely to recognize that angry feelings should not just be hidden from a partner, and that other emotions usually underlie anger.

    Students (especially boys) were significantly more inclined to recognize swearing and intimidation as forms of abuse.

    Students were much less likely to believe that the amount of violence on TV represents the amount of violence in real life.

    Students became significantly more aware of the means advertisers use to sell their products, and they were better able to recognize stereotypes and hidden messages in magazine ads.

    Boys showed the most improvement in their self-confidence about being able to recognize the effects of stereotypes on behaviour, and to recognize pressure to conform to stereotypes.

    Girls (but not boys) gained confidence in their ability to resist peer pressure. (Control-group girls actually became less confident in this area.)

    Asked what they would do if they saw a boy grabbing a girl's arm to prevent her from leaving a party, students were more likely to say they would consult a teacher or guidance counselor about what to do.

  • POWER:
    Girls showed the most improvement in their ability to differentiate between shared power and power over others.

Healthy Relationships is being used by public schools, women's shelters, social welfare agencies, and health, detention, youth, and counselling centres in every Canadian province and territory and in 30 US states. The Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada is funding the Winnipeg evaluation.

Dr. Wendy Josephson, Principal Investigator & Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Winnipeg.

Manitoba Evaluation Table of Contents
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