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Mapping review

Training and information interventions for children and youth to prevent and uncover violence, abuse and offence: a systematic mapping review

The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir) commissioned the Norwegian Institute of Public Health to map out both quantitative and qualitative evidence on interventions for children and youth to prevent and uncover violence, abuse and offence against children and youth.

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The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir) commissioned the Norwegian Institute of Public Health to map out both quantitative and qualitative evidence on interventions for children and youth to prevent and uncover violence, abuse and offence against children and youth.


Key message

The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir) commissioned the Norwegian Institute of Public Health to map out both quantitative and qualitative evidence on interventions for children and youth to prevent and uncover violence, abuse and offence against children and youth.

Methods

In May 2018, a research librarian searched in major databases for empirical research published between 2000 and 2018. Two independent researchers screened all retrieved records, and included studies based on pre defined criteria. We extracted data from the included studies, collated the data and performed descriptive analyses.

Results

We included 65 studies. Half of these (49%) were randomized controlled trials, 43% were controlled before-after studies, and 8% were qualitative studies or had qualitative data. Most of the studies (79%) were conducted in western countries, but we did not identify any studies from Norway or other Nordic countries. Most studies (48%) were conducted in the United States, while 17% of studies were conducted in European countries. Most of the interventions (80%) were school-based.

We categorized the topics of the interventions into four categories: 1) violence, abuse and offenses in general 2) sexual abuse in particular 3) violence and offense in peer relations in general 4) violence and offense in love/date relationships in particular.

There were five categories of outcomes: 1) knowledge, 2) skills, 3) attitudes, 4) behavior/ experiences, 5) disclosure/ask for help. For outcome categories 1, 2 and 5, the studies reported almost exclusively positive effects of the interventions. For outcome categories 3 and 4, the studies reported mixed results. None of the studies identified any negative effects of the assessed interventions.

Summary

Background

Many children who grow up with violence, abuse and offence in the home know no other reality. They often do not know that what they experience is not okay, and thus do not have the knowledge they need to ask for help. For older children and adolescents, it can be difficult to know where the limits of what is abusive are. Research shows that children and adolescents exposed to violence and sexual abuse are at increased risk for a wide range of mental and somatic problems and disorders.

Objective

The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir) commissioned the Norwegian Institute of Public Health to map out both quantitative and qualitative evidence on interventions for children and youth to prevent and uncover violence, abuse and offence against children and youth.

Method

We performed a systematic mapping review according to international standards. We used the methodological framework described by Arksey and O’Malley. We clarified with the commissioner (Bufdir) the criteria for what kind of studies should be included in the review.

We included studies published between 2000 and 2018 that had investigated the effect of training and information interventions for children and adolescents. We included studies with a control group and pre-post measures; that is, studies designed to answer this type of research question. In addition, we included qualitative studies that had examined children and adolescents’ experiences with such interventions.

In order to identify relevant studies, we searched nine literature databases. Two investigators independently identified references and evaluated these according to the criteria for inclusion. One researcher extracted relevant data from the studies and another checked that all data were correct. We presented data from the studies in text and tables and performed descriptive analyses of results.

Results

We included 65 studies that had investigated the effects or experiences of education and information measures for children and adolescents to prevent and detect violence, abuse and offense. Twice as many of the studies were published over the past decade compared to the decade before. 49% of these were randomized controlled trials. 43% were controlled before-after studies. Only 8% of the studies were qualitative studies or presented qualitative data. 79% of the studies were conducted in western countries, but we did not identify any studies from Norway or other Nordic countries. Most studies were conducted in the United States (48%), while 17% of studies were conducted in European countries and 12% were conducted in Canada.

Description of the interventions

We categorized the topics of the interventions into four categories. 1) Violence, abuse and offenses in general were investigated in 25% of the studies. 2) Sexual abuse in particular was examined in 18% of the studies. 3) Violence and offenses in peer relations in general were the topics in 22% of the studies. 4) Violence and offense in love/ date relationships in particular were covered in 35% of the studies.

Most of the interventions in the studies were school-based interventions (80%). Only 6% had investigated interventions given in kindergartens. 14% of the studies had investigated other types of interventions, such as computer games, media campaigns or "coaching". 31% of the interventions were long interventions (duration of 10 hours or more), 35% were medium-term interventions (+/- 5 hours), while 22% were short-term interventions (1-2 hours). Most of the interventions were provided by a person from outside school who was an expert in providing that specific intervention (65%). 12% of the interventions were given by a teacher and 6% of the interventions were given by youths/ peers.

Types of outcomes

We categorized the relevant outcomes in the studies in five categories: 1) knowledge, 2) skills, 3) attitudes, 4) behavior/experiences, 5) disclosure/asking for help.

Study results

The results of the studies showed that for outcomes related to the categories "knowledge" and "skills", positive results were found in virtually all the studies that had investigated these outcomes. The children who had received interventions had more knowledge about violence, abuse and offense, as well as knowledge about rights and support services, compared to the children who had not received an intervention. They also had better skills in mastering challenging situations and relationships. The studies found positive results regardless of the content, form and length of the intervention, and regardless of who delivered the intervention.

For outcomes related to the categories "attitudes" and "behaviors/experiences" the results were mixed. Several studies found positive effects of the interventions, but especially for outcomes related to "behaviors/experiences", several studies did not find an effect of the intervention. Interventions that were long or medium-long showed a better effect on these outcomes than short-term interventions.

None of the studies identified any negative effects of the assessed interventions.

Discussion

Robust research that examines the effects of interventions to prevent and detect violence, abuse and offense against children appears to be increasing. There is a doubling of effectiveness studies (RCTs and CBAs) over the last decade compared to the decade before. An overweight of this type of study is conducted in the United States. The number of qualitative studies that investigate children's experiences with such interventions seems to be very few. There appears to be no studies from Norway or another Nordic country that have investigated the effects of such interventions, using a robust design (RCT or CBA), nor studies on children's experiences with such interventions.

Most of the interventions examined in the included studies are school-based interventions. It seems many interventions succeed in giving children and young people better knowledge of violence-related issues, but that it is somewhat more challenging to influence the attitudes and behavior of children and young people. Longer, more extensive interventions showed a better effect for these outcomes than shorter interventions. In addition, there are findings that indicate that behavior in children and adolescents takes longer to change than, for example, knowledge. In one of the included studies, the results related to the outcome category “behavior/experiences” were significantly positive first at the second follow-up measurements. It is conceivable that several of the studies had too short follow-up time to measure the effect of the interventions on outcomes related to the children and the youth's behavior/experiences.

Conclusion

The amount of robust research that investigates the effects of interventions to prevent and detect violence, abuse and offense against children appears to be increasing. But there is a lack of studies from Norway and other Nordic countries. Few studies have investigated children’s experiences with such interventions. Most of the research in the field has investigated the effect of school-based interventions, and finds positive results for many of the outcomes investigated. Few studies have investigated interventions for the youngest children.

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    About this publication

  • Year: 2019
  • By: Norwegian Institute of Public Health
  • Authors Blaasvær N, Baiju N.
  • ISBN (digital): 978-82-8082-989-4