PeaceBuilders is a schoolwide violence prevention program for elementary schools (K–5). The program incorporates a strategy to change the school climate implemented by staff and students and is designed to promote prosocial behavior among students and adults. Children learn five simple principles: (1) praise people, (2) avoid put-downs, (3) seek wise people as advisors and friends, (4) notice and correct hurts we cause, and (5) right wrongs. Adults reinforce and model behaviors at school, at home, and in public places.
The underlying theory is that youth violence can be reduced by initiating prevention early in childhood, increasing children’s resilience, and reinforcing positive behaviors. It is also hypothesized that aggressive behavior can be reduced by altering the school environment to emphasize rewards and praise for prosocial behavior.
Nine broad behavior-change techniques are used: (1) common language for “community norms,” (2) story and live models for positive behavior, (3) environmental cues to signal desired behavior, (4) role plays to increase range of responses, (5) rehearsals of positive solutions after negative events and response cost as “punishment” for negative behavior, (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 to increase maintenance of change across time, places, and people. These strategies are designed to change school climate (the everyday interactions of students, staff, and families).
Evaluation of this program revealed the following:
- From August 2000 through February 2001, there was an 89 percent decrease in physical aggression.
- There was an 82 percent decrease in verbal aggression from February to May 2000.
- When visits to the school nurse were analyzed, results indicated that between 1993 and 1994 and 1994 and 1995, the rate of weekly injury-related visits per 1,000 student days significantly decreased by 12.6 percent in the intervention schools with no significant change observed in the control schools.
- Rates of confirmed fighting-related injuries did not change significantly in the intervention schools but significantly increased 56 percent in the control schools.
Early and persistent noncompliant behavior
Early onset of aggression/violence
Lack of guilt and empathy
Low perceived likelihood of being caught
Frequent truancy/absences/suspensions; expelled from school; dropping out of school
Low academic aspirations
Low school attachment/bonding/motivation/commitment to school
Poor school attitude/performance; academic failure
Association with antisocial/aggressive/delinquent peers; high peer delinquency
U.S. Department of Education: Promising program
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Promising program
Flannery, D. J.; Alexander T.; Vazsonyi, A. K.; Liau, S. G.; Powell, K. E.; Atha, H.; Vesterdal, W.; and Embry, D. D. (2003). “Initial Behavior Outcomes for the PeaceBuilders Universal School-Based Violence Prevention Program.” Developmental Psychology, 39:292–308.