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Program Profile: PeaceBuilders

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 10, 2011

Program Summary

A school-based violence prevention program designed to reduce aggression and improve social competence. The program is rated Promising. The intervention group showed improved social competence and less aggressive behavior.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals/Target Population
The overall goal of the PeaceBuilders program is to reduce violence among youth. The program, targeted at students in grades K–12 in school and afterschool settings, uses several strategies to address social competence and aggressive behavior among students. The idea is to improve a school’s overall social climate and culture so as to foster positive communication between students and adults, as well as prosocial behavior among students.

Program Activities
The activities of the PeaceBuilders program are designed to alter the overall school environment and facilitate positive social interactions between students and adults. The techniques focus on promoting individual behavior change through interpersonal and social interactions, and are designed to be incorporated into students’ daily interactions. The strategies are implemented as part of the school’s everyday routine, rather than as a set number of sessions. Participants are taught common principles, opportunities to rehearse positive behavior, and rewards for practicing it.

Students are taught the following six principles: 1) praise people, 2) avoid putdowns, 3) seek wise people as advisers and friends, 4) notice and correct hurts that you cause, 5) right wrongs, and 6) help others. The program relies on the participation of teachers, parents, the school principal, and support staff to instill these principles in students. These adults are expected to teach, reinforce, and model these behaviors in order to foster the principles at school, at home, and in public places.

The program further uses nine broad behavior-change techniques designed to promote a prosocial school environment, including 1) common language for community norms, 2) story and live models for positive behavior, 3) environmental cues to signal desired behavior, 4) role play to increase range of responses, 5) rehearsals of positive solutions after negative events and explanations of the impact that negative behavior had on the environment, 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—a strategy that generalizes behavior change in individuals—to increase maintenance of change across time, places, and people. Ultimately, these techniques help promote the PeaceBuilders “way of life” in the school environment.

The program activities work to facilitate and reinforce positive behavior among students. Activities may include assembling in a “PeaceCircle,” in which students compliment one another for acts of helpfulness, friendship, and accomplishment; assigning “preferrals” to the principal’s office as rewards for good behavior; and writing mediation essays (known as “PeaceTreaties”) after behaving inappropriately. Staff and students are encouraged to use “praise notes” to reinforce positive behavior and provide support for others. Students also complete activities from a specially designed comic book in which they are the hero. In addition, PeaceBuilders rules and principles are prominently displayed throughout the school to serve as constant reminders of prosocial behavior.

Finally, PeaceBuilders addresses the impact of social context on the development of violent behavior in youths by including four components to influence the neighborhood, community, and media:

Parent education. This component is designed to help parents create solutions to reduce aggression in their children. It teaches parents ways to reduce TV watching and sibling fighting, as well as strategies to increase homework completion.

Marketing to families. This component is designed to make the program’s goals known to families. This is done through advertising in fast-food restaurants, toy manufacturing, and public health campaigns.

Collateral training. The program trains community volunteers who are interested in assisting with the PeaceBuilders program.

Mass media tie-ins. This component is designed to communicate the PeaceBuilders principles to the community in order to spread its positive message. It includes repetition and recognitions of specific tactics used in the program.

Program Theory
The underlying theory behind PeaceBuilders is that youth violence can be reduced by initiating prevention early in childhood, by increasing children’s resilience, and by reinforcing positive behaviors. This point of view further hypothesizes that aggressive behavior can be reduced by altering the school environment to emphasize rewards and praise for prosocial behavior. In theory, if positive behaviors are consistently reinforced and rewarded in schools, social competence among students will improve and violent behavior will decrease.

Additional Information
The program was first designed and studied in elementary and middle schools (K–8) and implemented in more than 1,200 schools and organizations nationwide, as of March 2011. As of March 2011, a high school program has been implemented at 24 locations since 2003, a preschool program at 24 locations since 2005, and an afterschool program at more than 150 sites since 2000.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Social Competence
In evaluating PeaceBuilders, Flannery and colleagues (2003) found overall significant consistent improvements among students in teacher-rated social competence and self-reported peace-building behavior by the end of the 1st school year, but inconsistent results in self-reported prosocial behavior. Increases in teacher-rated social competence were maintained for all K–5 students in treatment schools in times 3 and 4. Higher levels of peace-building and prosocial behavior were mostly maintained at times 3 and 4, but the results varied between age groups.

Teacher-rated social competence. By the end of the 1st school year (time 2), students in the K–2 PeaceBuilder schools received significantly higher teacher ratings of social competence compared to students in the control group. PeaceBuilder students in grades 3–5 received only moderately higher scores compared to students in the control group. At both time 3 and time 4, PeaceBuilder students in both grades K–2 and 3–5 received significantly higher teacher ratings of social competence compared to students in the control group.

Self-reported prosocial behavior. At time 2, students in the K–2 PeaceBuilder schools rated themselves as more prosocial compared to their peers in the control group. Students in grades 3–5 in PeaceBuilder schools rated themselves as less prosocial compared to their peers in the control group. At time 3, students in both grades K–2 and 3–5 PeaceBuilder schools reported higher prosocial behavior compared to students in the control schools. At time 4, students in grades K–2 PeaceBuilder schools reported significantly greater prosocial behavior compared to their control group peers, while students in grades 3–5 reported significantly lower prosocial behavior compared to their control group peers.

Self-reported peace-building behavior. At time 2, students in both grades K–2 and 3–5 PeaceBuilder schools rated themselves higher in peace-building behavior compared to the control group. These differences were maintained at time 3 and time 4; however, the effects began to subside by time 4.

Aggressive Behavior
Overall consistent significant reductions in teacher-reported aggressive behavior were found for all students by the end of the 1st school year. By the end of the first school year (time 2), PeaceBuilder students in both grades K–2 and 3–5 received significantly lower teacher-rated aggression scores compared to their peers in the control group. These effects were maintained at times 3 and 4.

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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Flannery and colleagues (2003) evaluated PeaceBuilders using a randomized design with treatment and control groups. Eight elementary schools (grades K–5) in Pima County, Ariz., were selected from two large school districts, based on their high rates of juvenile arrests, suspensions, and expulsions. The total sample consisted of 4,128 students. Of these, 51 percent were Hispanic, 28 percent white, 13 percent American Indian, 6 percent African American, and 1.5 percent Asian American.

The study analyzed data for 2 full school years, denoted as year 1 and year 2. All participating schools remained in the study through the first 2 intervention years. Before baseline data collection, the eight project schools were matched into four pairs, primarily on the basis of geographic proximity. Four schools were then randomly assigned as PeaceBuilders Immediate intervention schools and began the program immediately following baseline data collection in fall 1994. These four schools implemented the PeaceBuilders program for the entire school year of year 1 (fall and spring). The remaining schools in the control group were assigned to the PeaceBuilders Delayed program, where implementation of the PeaceBuilders program was delayed until year 2 in 1995, after 1 year of baseline data collection. Thus in year 1, the four treatment schools received the PeaceBuilders intervention, while the four control schools did not receive any PeaceBuilders intervention. In year 2, both the treatment and control schools received the PeaceBuilders intervention. Teachers at the intervention schools were trained to implement the PeaceBuilders program during the school day. Teachers at control schools neither received training nor implemented PeaceBuilders until after the 1st year. Student-level data was used for the analyses.

The two primary outcome measures for the study were social competence and aggressive behavior, as measured by teacher reports and self-reports by students. Outcomes for self-reported behaviors were measured as two separate groups, for grades K–2 and grades 3–5. The questionnaires were modified to be made easier for the grade K–2 group; students in these grades were asked to respond “yes” or “no” (or close variations) to items, while students in grades 3–5 were asked to rate items on a point scale. Also, face-to-face interviews were conducted with students in grades K–2 to obtain responses, while students in grades 3-5 and teachers filled out bubble scan sheets to provide responses.

Data were collected at four points:
  • Baseline (fall 1994)
  • Time 2 (spring of year 1, 1995)
  • Time 3 (fall of year 2, 1995)
  • Time 4 (spring of year 2, 1996)
To evaluate the effect of the intervention in its 1st year, differences in outcome measures from baseline data collection (fall 1994) and spring of year 1 (spring 1995) were compared for the treatment and control groups. This was the only period when a true control group was used. Time 3 and time 4 data were used to assess whether or not the effects of the program could be sustained.

Social competence was measured based on teacher reports of students’ social competence, using the Walker–McConnell Scale of Social Competence and School Adjustment. This instrument has three subscales: School Adjustment, Peer-Preferred Behaviors, and Teacher-Preferred Behaviors, and include items on students’ cooperation, self-control, and social behavior. Teachers rated the frequency of such behaviors on a Likert scale ranging from “never” (1) to “frequently” (5).

Prosocial behavior for students in grades 3–5 was measured using a 16-item instrument designed for the study, which included items regarding empathy, caring, helpfulness, and support of others. Students reported the frequency of their own behaviors on a three-point scale (1=no, 2=a little, 3=a lot). Prosocial behavior for students in grades K–2 was assessed based on responses to six statements. Students reported the frequency of their own behaviors by responding “yes,” “sometimes,” or “no, not really.”

Peace-building behavior for students in grades 3–5 was assessed based on their responses to three peace-building statements, including “I helped build peace at school,” “I told other kids they were peace builders,” and “I earned rewards for peace building” on a three-point scale (1=no, 2=a little, 3=a lot). Peace-building behavior for students in grades K–2 was assessed based on their responses to four items regarding peace building. Students reported the frequency of their own behaviors by responding either “yes” or “no” to these statements.

Aggressive behavior was measured using teachers’ reports of aggressive behavior by students, using items adapted from the aggressive behavior subscale of Achenbach’s Teacher Report Form. Using this instrument, teachers rated aggressive child behavior on a three-point scale between 0 and 2 (0=not true, 1=somewhat true, 2=very true).
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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Teachers and staff must be trained to implement the PeaceBuilders curriculum, with the training comprising several stages. Training includes a preintervention orientation, a training workshop on the basic PeaceBuilders model, and coaching. All training and coaching is conducted by the model developer. Schools also receive in-service sessions on important issues, successes and challenges to implementation, and the creation of new strategies.

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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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

Study 1

Flannery, Dennis J., Alexander T. Vazsonyi, Albert K. Liau, Shenyang Guo, Kenneth E. Powell, Henry Atha, Wendy Vesterdal, and Dennis D. Embry. 2003. “Initial Behavior Outcomes for the PeaceBuilders Universal School-Based Violence Prevention Program.” Developmental Psychology 39(2):292–308.

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Additional References

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

Embry, Dennis D., Daniel J. Flannery, Alexander T. Vazsonyi, Kenneth E. Powell, and Henry Atha. 1996. “PeaceBuilders: A Theoretically Driven, School-Based Model for Early Violence Prevention.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 12(5):91–100.

Krug, Etienne G., Nancy D. Brener, Linda L. Dahlberg, George W. Ryan, and Kenneth E. Powell. 1997. “The Impact of an Elementary School–Based Violence Prevention Program on Visits to the School Nurse.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 13(6):459–63.

PeacePartners, Inc. 2011. “PeaceBuilders Home”. Accessed May 19, 2011.

Vazsonyi, Alexander T., Lara M. Belliston, and Daniel J. Flannery. 2004. “Evaluation of a School-Based, Universal Violence Prevention Program: Low-, Medium-, and High-Risk Children.” Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 2(2)185–206.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Universal School-Based Prevention and Intervention Programs for Aggressive and Disruptive Behavior
Universal school-based prevention and intervention programs for aggressive and disruptive behavior target elementary, middle, and high school students in a universal setting, rather than focusing on only a selective group of students, with the intention of preventing or reducing violent, aggressive, or disruptive behaviors. The practice is rated Effective in reducing violent, aggressive, and/or disruptive behaviors in students.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors
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Program Snapshot

Age: 5 - 10

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, American Indians/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White

Geography: Rural, Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Afterschool/Recreation, Community Awareness/Mobilization, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, Leadership and Youth Development, School/Classroom Environment, Violence Prevention

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide, What Works Clearinghouse

Program Developer:
PeacePartners, Inc.
741 Atlantic Avenue
Long Beach CA 90813
Phone: 1.877.473.2236
Fax: 520.590.3902