National Institute of Justice National Institute of Justice. Research. Development. Evaluation. Office of Justice Programs
Crime Solutions.gov
skip navigationHome  |  Help  |  Contact Us  |  Site Map   |  Glossary
Reliable Research. Real Results. skip navigation
skip navigation Additional Resources:

skip navigation

Program Profile: Shifting Boundaries

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on March 22, 2012

Program Summary

A two-part intervention designed to reduce dating violence and sexual harassment among middle school youth by highlighting the consequences of this behavior for perpetrators and increasing faculty surveillance of unsafe areas. The program is rated Promising. The intervention groups had statistically significant outcome impacts, albeit with mixed results. The most important classroom activity was the hot spot mapping of unsafe areas that informed the schoolwide intervention.

Program Description

Program Goals
Shifting Boundaries is a two-part intervention—classroom curricula and schoolwide—designed to reduce dating violence and sexual harassment among middle school students by highlighting the consequences of this behavior for perpetrators and by increasing faculty surveillance of unsafe areas within the school. This primary prevention program aims to:

  • Increase knowledge and awareness of sexual abuse and harassment
  • Promote prosocial attitudes and a negative view of dating violence and sexual harassment
  • Promote nonviolent behavioral intentions in bystanders
  • Reduce the occurrence of dating and peer violence
  • Reduce the occurrence of sexual harassment
Target Population
Research suggests that adolescents can experience dating violence and sexual harassment as young as sixth grade (Callahan, Tolman, and Saunders 2003). Thus, the Shifting Boundaries intervention is designed for middle school students in sixth and seventh grades.

Program Activities
Shifting Boundaries is an intervention designed to reduce the incidence and prevalence of dating violence and sexual harassment among adolescents. The intervention consists of two parts: a classroom-based curricula and a schoolwide component.

Classroom curricula
The classroom curricula has six sessions that cover 1) the construction of gender roles, 2) the setting and communicating of boundaries in interpersonal relationships, 3) healthy relationships, 4) the role of bystander as intervener, 5) the consequences of perpetrating, and 6) the State and Federal laws related to dating violence and sexual harassment. The six lessons are flexible with current school schedules and are taught over 6 to 10 weeks. Lessons are taught by trained substance abuse prevention and intervention specialists.

These six lessons use both concrete/applied materials and abstract thinking components. Two of the activities consist of students measuring their own personal space and creating ‘hot spot’ maps of their school that highlight safe and unsafe spaces in regard to dating violence and sexual harassment. The curriculum includes a fact-based component based on the idea that increased knowledge about facts and consequences of one’s behaviors are appropriate and useful primary prevention tools. Facts and statistics about sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and the legal definitions of all of these terms are part of this fact-based component. Students explore the concepts of laws and boundaries, consider laws as they apply by gender, plot the shifting nature of personal space, learn how to help a friend in need, and learn about other sources of help. One of the last activities dictates that students sign the Respecting Boundaries Agreement, which is tied to prohibited behaviors in the school rules.


Schoolwide intervention
The second component of Shifting Boundaries is a school-level intervention. This intervention affects the entire school building and consists of revising school protocols for identifying and responding to dating violence and sexual harassment, the introduction of temporary school-based restraining orders, and the installation of posters in the school to increase awareness and reporting of dating violence/harassment. The classroom curricula and the schoolwide intervention are linked, as the student ‘hot spot’ maps of unsafe areas in school are used to determine the placement of faculty or school security for greater surveillance of these areas. The building interventions are conducted on the same schedule as the classroom curricula, lasting 6 to 10 weeks.

Evaluation Outcomes

top border
Study 1
Taylor and colleagues (2011) examined numerous outcome measures that are summarized graphically on page 13 of the final report (see link under Evidence Base). Outcomes were measured immediately after the intervention and 6-months later at a follow-up assessment.

Overall, only the schoolwide intervention and the classroom/schoolwide-level (hereafter referred to as combined) intervention had statistically significant impacts on the outcomes, but the results overall were mixed. It appears that the most important classroom activity was the ‘hot spot’ mapping of unsafe areas within the school that informed the schoolwide-level intervention. However, the classroom curriculum, by itself, had no significant effect on any of the outcome measures.


Increased Knowledge
The schoolwide-only intervention group was not significantly different from the control group on knowledge scores at postintervention or at 6-month follow-up. However, there were statistically significant differences in students’ knowledge scores in the combined intervention group postintervention and at the 6-month follow-up, compared with the control group. The combined intervention group had significantly better knowledge scores than the control group regarding sexual abuse and harassment.

Attitudes Toward Violence
Controlling for baseline attitudes, there were no statistically significant results found for any interventions on attitudinal outcomes postintervention or at the 6-month follow-up.

Bystander Behavioral Intentions
Immediately postintervention, none of the intervention groups reported significantly greater intentions to intervene as bystanders. However, at the 6-month follow-up the schoolwide-only intervention exhibited a positive and significant effect on students’ intentions to intervene in the suggested scenarios. The schoolwide intervention had a bystander component encouraging students to intervene if they were to see abusive behavior among students, and the researchers note that this outcome seems to have occurred.

Victimization Outcomes
There were several combinations of outcome measures of violence victimization and perpetration. The prevalence (total number of cases) and frequency (number of occurrences of a repeated event) were measured for total peer violent and sexual victimization, dating partner violent and sexual victimization, and sexual harassment.

Postintervention
For students in the schoolwide-only intervention there was a 34 percent reduction in the prevalence of sexual victimization by a peer as compared to the control group, but there was no significant impact on the frequency of sexual victimization by a peer. There were also no significant differences detected for the schoolwide-only intervention group for any of the other victimization outcome measures.

For students in the combined intervention, there was a statistically significant reduction in the frequency of total violent victimization by a peer (36 percent), but not in the prevalence of violent victimization by a peer. There was also a significant reduction in the prevalence and frequency of sexual victimization (32 and 34 percent, respectively) as compared to the control group. But there were no significant differences detected for the combined intervention group for any of the other victimization outcome measures.


6-month follow-up
For the schoolwide-only intervention there were statistically significant reductions in the frequency of total violent victimization by a peer (27 percent), the frequency of sexual victimization (35 percent), the frequency of dating partner violent victimization (54 percent), and the prevalence and frequency of dating partner sexual victimization (50 and 53 percent, respectively).

However, there were some contradictory effects found as well for the schoolwide-level intervention group on total victimization by a peer. Students reported an 88 percent higher prevalence of total victimization by a peer compared to the control group. A similar finding was discovered for sexual harassment. The likelihood of students in the building-only intervention reporting the prevalence of any sexual harassment victimization was 107 percent more than that of the control group (or more than twice as likely).

Despite this higher reported prevalence of total victimization by a peer and sexual harassment, the reported frequency of both of these events was significantly less than that of the control group at the 6-month follow-up. There were no significant differences detected for the schoolwide-only intervention group for any of the other victimization outcome measures.

For students in the combined intervention group, there were statistically significant reductions in the prevalence and frequency of total sexual victimization (34 and 41 percent respectively) as well as a significant reduction in the frequency of total victimization by a peer (33 percent), but no significant reduction in the prevalence of victimization by a peer. There was also a significant reduction in the frequency of sexual harassment (26 percent) as compared to the control group but no reduction in the prevalence of sexual harassment. There were no significant differences detected for the combined intervention group for any of the other victimization outcome measures.


Perpetrating/Offending Outcomes
Self-report data on student’s perpetrating or committing acts of violence was also examined. Similar to the victimization data reported above, the offending outcomes were gathered for the prevalence and frequency of perpetrating any violence, sexual violence, dating partner violence and sexual violence, and sexual harassment.

Postintervention
Similar to the unexpected victimization finding for the schoolwide-level intervention group, the prevalence in total violence perpetrated was significantly greater compared to the control group. Students reported a 55 percent higher prevalence of total violence perpetration compared to the control group. However, there was more than a 30 percent reduction in the frequency of perpetrating any violence. There was also a 51 percent reduction in the frequency of dating partner violence as compared to the control group but there was no significant reduction in the prevalence of dating partner violence. There were no significant differences detected for the schoolwide-level intervention group for any of the other perpetrating outcome measures.

For the combined intervention there was more than a 30 percent reduction in the frequency of perpetrating any violence as compared to the control group, but there was no significant impact on the prevalence of perpetrating any violence. There were no significant differences detected for the combined intervention group for any of the other perpetrating outcome measures.


6-month follow-up
For the schoolwide-level intervention there were statistically significant reductions in the prevalence and frequency of sexual violence perpetration on peers (47 percent and 40 percent, respectively) and in the frequency of sexual harassment (34 percent) as compared to the control group. However, there was still a significantly greater prevalence in total violence perpetration as compared to the control group. There were no significant differences detected for the schoolwide-level intervention group for any of the other perpetrating outcome measures.

For the combined intervention there was a 32 percent reduction in the frequency of total violence perpetrated as compared to the control group, but there was no significant impact on the prevalence of total violence perpetrated. There were no significant differences detected for the combined intervention group for any of the other perpetrating outcome measures.
bottom border

Evaluation Methodology

top border
Study 1
Taylor and colleagues (2011) used an experimental design with random assignment to determine the effect of the Shifting Boundaries intervention on adolescent dating violence and sexual harassment. The research team randomly assigned New York City middle schools to one of four conditions: a classroom-based intervention, a schoolwide intervention, both classroom and schoolwide interventions, and a control (no intervention) group. Thirty schools completed the study and implemented their assigned condition as planned. The assignment to condition was as follows: six schools and 23 classrooms received only the classroom-based intervention; eight schools and 30 classrooms received only the schoolwide intervention; seven schools and 28 classrooms received both the school and the classroom intervention; and nine schools and 36 classrooms were the control group. The control group went through its normal class schedule and did not receive any of the elements of the classroom intervention or the schoolwide intervention.

The ethnic breakdown of the sample was 34 percent Hispanic, 31 percent African American, 16 percent Asian, 13 percent white, with the remainder in the ‘other’ racial category. The sample was fairly evenly split between sixth and seventh grade students, with 1,266 students (48 percent) in sixth grade and 1,388 students (52 percent) in seventh. Participating students ranged in age from 10 to 15, with 94.5 percent falling in the 11 to 13 age range. Fifty-three percent of the overall sample was female.

Data collection and measurement occurred at three different times: immediately before group assignment (baseline), immediately after the six lessons were completed, and 5 to 6 months after the conclusion of lessons (follow-up). The student surveys took about 40 minutes to complete and were administered during one classroom period. Student surveys were divided into five sections, measuring knowledge, attitudes, behavioral intentions, actual behavior, and demographic information. The knowledge measures included questions about State rape laws, definitions of abuse and sexual harassment, resources for help, rape myths, and skills such as conflict resolution. Attitudinal measures covered the acceptability of violent, abusive, and harassing behaviors. The behavioral intentions were measured from responses about the willingness to intervene in harmful situations and interrupt harassment. Actual behavior was measured by self-reports of perpetration and victimization of dating violence and sexual harassment. The demographic portion of the survey covered standard age, gender, race, and ethnicity questions as well as prior attendance at an educational program about sexual assault, harassment, or violence, and prior history of dating. The prevalence (total number of cases) and frequency (number of occurrences of a repeated event) were measured for the victimization and perpetration outcomes.

Baseline measures show that 40 percent of the study sample had prior experience with a violence prevention educational program. Nearly half of the sample (48 percent) reported at least one experience of being in a dating relationship that lasted 1 week or longer. About one in five respondents (19.4 percent) reported having been the victim of any physical or sexual dating violence at some point in time. Two thirds of the sample (66 percent) reported having been the victims of any physical or sexual peer violence at some point in time. One in five respondents (20 percent) reported having perpetrated any physical or sexual dating violence at some point in time. Nearly three out of five (57 percent) reported having perpetrated any physical or sexual peer violence at some point in time, and nearly half (45.8 percent) reported having sexually harassed someone at some point in time.

Because of the clustered nature of the data (individuals within classrooms within schools), specific statistical procedures needed to be used to account for the clustering. Dichotomous outcome variables were analyzed with logistic regression that included a robust variance estimate that adjusted for within-cluster correlation. Negative binomial regression with a robust variance estimate was used for all count data (e.g., “how many times were you victimized?”). Ordinary least squares regression with a robust variance estimate was used for the normally distributed/linear outcomes such as the knowledge, attitude, and intention measures.
bottom border

Cost

top border
There is no cost information available for this program.
bottom border

Implementation Information

top border
The 2011 report by Taylor and colleagues provides a copy of the classroom-based curriculum, the schoolwide curriculum, blank and color-coded blueprints of the school building for the ‘hot spot’ mapping of unsafe areas within the school, fidelity and attendance worksheets, and a copy of the Respecting Boundaries Agreement (please see Evidence Base for a link to the report).
bottom border

Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

top border
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Taylor, Bruce, Nan D. Stein, Dan Woods, and Elizabeth Mumford. 2011. Shifting Boundaries: Final Report on an Experimental Evaluation of a Youth Dating Violence Prevention Program in New York City Middle Schools. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.
https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/236175.pdf
bottom border

Additional References

top border
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Callahan, Michelle R., Richard M. Tolman, and Daniel G. Saunders. 2003. “Adolescents Dating Violence Victimization and Psychological Well-Being.” Journal of Adolescent Research 18(6):664–81.

Shanklin, Shari L., Nancy D. Brener, Tim McManus, Steve Kinchen, and Laura Kann. 2007. 2005 Middle School Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Atlanta, Ga.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Taylor, Bruce G., Nan D. Stein, Elizabeth A. Mumford, and Daniel Woods. 2013. “Shifting Boundaries: An Experimental Evaluation of a Dating Violence Prevention Program in Middle Schools.” Prevention Science 14(1):64–76.

Taylor, Bruce, Elizabeth Mumford, Weiwei Liu, and Nan D. Stein. 2016. Assessing Different Levels and Dosages of the Shifting Boundaries Intervention to Prevent Youth Dating Violence in New York City Middle Schools: A Randomized Control Trial. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. (This study was reviewed but did not meet Crime Solutions' criteria for inclusion in the overall program rating.)
https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/249587.pdf
bottom border

Related Practices

top border
Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

School-Based Interventions to Reduce Dating and Sexual Violence
This practice includes universal-level prevention and intervention programs in schools that aim to reduce or prevent teen dating violence perpetration and victimization. The practice is rated Effective for reducing perpetration of teen dating violence and improving dating violence knowledge and attitudes. The practice is rated No Effects for reducing teen dating violence victimization.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Attitudes & Beliefs - Teen Dating Violence Knowledge
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Attitudes & Beliefs - Teen Dating Violence Attitudes
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Victimization - Domestic/intimate partner/family violence
bottom border


Program Snapshot

Age: 10 - 15

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White, Other

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Classroom Curricula, School/Classroom Environment, Children Exposed to Violence, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design/Design Against Crime, Violence Prevention

Targeted Population: Children Exposed to Violence

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Child Exposure to Violence Evidence Based Guide, Model Programs Guide

Program Developer:
Bruce Taylor
Principal Research Scientist
National Opinion Research Center
4350 East-West Highway
Bethesda MD 20814
Phone: 301.634.9512
Website
Email

Program Developer:
Nan D. Stein
Senior Research Scientist
Wellesley College
106 Central Street
Wellesley MA 02841-8203
Phone: 781.283.2502
Fax: 781.283.2504
Website
Email