Individual, Parent, and School-Level Protective Factors in Early Adolescents


Although important progress has been made in youth violence prevention, further work is urgently needed to improve the effectiveness of current prevention efforts. This project focused on early adolescence -- a crucial transition point during which youth are at increased risk for violence and victimization. The limited impact of current interventions for this age group underscores the importance of clarifying the risk and protective factors most relevant to these youth. Developmentally, early adolescents may be particularly susceptible to the influence of peers, and peer group and school norms related to violence. The goal of this project was to examine the role of modifiable protective factors representing processes at the individual, parent, peer group, and school level that have the potential to reduce the impact of risk factors encountered in the school and peer domains. This information could inform efforts to develop more effective programs to reduce the escalation of violence associated with adolescence.

This project was designed to take advantage of an existing longitudinal data set collected as part of the recently completed Multi-site Violence Prevention Project (MVPP). Within the MVPP, data on risk and protective factors were obtained from multiple sources for students at 37 schools across multiple waves from the start of the sixth grade through the end of the eighth grade. Access to a data set that sampled teachers (N = 263) and two cohorts of students (N = 5,615) at a large number of schools representing four diverse sites provides a relatively unusual opportunity to examine the influence of risk and protective factors within the individual, peer, parent, and school domains on changes in individuals’ level of violence during early adolescence. Few previous studies have sampled a sufficiently large or diverse sample of schools, or collected data that provided the depth and scope needed to examine the interaction between risk and protective factors at different levels of influence, particularly those that involve peer group and school-level processes.

The specific aims of this project are:

  1. Determine the extent to which association with delinquent peers, peer group norms, and school processes supporting violence increase risk for violence among middle school students;
  2. Determine the protective effects of individual beliefs (e.g., beliefs against violence, beliefs supporting nonviolent strategies), parenting variables (parental support for nonviolent strategies, parental involvement and monitoring), and group norms for nonviolent strategies;
  3. Test competing models of the relations among risk and protective factors;
  4. Determine the consistency of these effects across gender and ethnicity with the context of schools that differ in their ethnic compositions and structures.

Affiliated Center/Program

Funding Agency

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to Virginia Commonwealth University


Principal investigator
David B. Henry, PhD



Michael E. Schoeny, PhD
Patrick Tolan, PhD

Start date
End date
About this grant

Dr. Patrick Tolan, formerly of the UIC and now at the Virginia Commonwealth University, is principal investigator of this study. Dr. Henry directed the UIC portion of the study.

Related publications

See publications supported by this grant on this PubMed list

Sheidow AJ, Henry DB, Tolan PH, Strachan MK. The Role of Stress Exposure and Family Functioning in Internalizing Outcomes of Urban Families. J Child Fam Stud. 2014 Nov;23(8):1351-1365. [See abstract.]

Tolan PH, Henry DB, Schoeny MS, Lovegrove P, Nichols E. Mentoring Programs to Affect Delinquency and Associated Outcomes of Youth At-Risk: A Comprehensive Meta-Analytic Review. J Exp Criminol. 2014 Jun 1;10(2):179-206. [See abstract.]

Fowler PJ, Henry DB, Schoeny M, Gorman-Smith D, Tolan PH. Effects of the SAFE Children preventive intervention on developmental trajectories of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms. Dev Psychopathol. 2014 Nov;26(4 Pt 1):1161-79. [See abstract.]

Multisite Violence Prevention Project. The moderating role of developmental microsystems in selective preventive intervention effects on aggression and victimization of aggressive and socially-influential students. Prev Sci. 2013 Aug;14(4):390-9. [See abstract.]

Henry DB, Tolan PH, Gorman-Smith D, Schoeny ME. Risk and direct protective factors for youth violence: results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Multisite Violence Prevention Project. Am J Prev Med. 2012 Aug;43(2 Suppl 1):S67-75. [See abstract.]

Wakschlag LS, Henry DB, Tolan PH, Carter AS, Burns JL, Briggs-Gowan MJ. Putting theory to the test: modeling a multidimensional, developmentally-based approach to preschool disruptive behavior. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012 Jun;51(6):593-604.e4. [See abstract.]

Multisite Violence Prevention Project. Mediators of effects of a selective family-focused violence prevention approach for middle school students. Prev Sci. 2012 Feb;13(1):1-14. [See abstract.]