School-based intimate partner violence prevention programs

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Some Evidence

Strategies with this rating are likely to work, but further research is needed to confirm effects. These strategies have been tested more than once and results trend positive overall.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers
Date last updated

School-based programs to prevent youth intimate partner violence (IPV), also called teen dating violence, offer education and skill-building activities that address healthy relationships, gender norms, and relationship coercion, and build problem-solving skills. These programs are usually taught in a school setting and follow a structured curriculum1. Youth IPV includes physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional violence by a dating partner2. Surveys suggest that IPV peaks in the late teens3. In 2015, 12% of dating female high school students and 7% of dating male high school students reported experiencing physical dating violence, and 16% of female and 5% of male students reported experiencing sexual dating violence4.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Increased knowledge of intimate partner violence

  • Reduced intimate partner violence

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Reduced delinquent behavior

  • Increased condom use

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is some evidence that school-based programs to prevent youth intimate partner violence (IPV) increase knowledge about, and improve attitudes toward, teen dating violence5 and avert dating violence6, 7. However, effects vary by program; additional evidence is needed to confirm effects and identify the most successful interventions to reduce dating violence3, 5.

Overall, participants in school-based IPV prevention interventions for middle and high school students demonstrate increases in knowledge about healthy behaviors in couple relationships and greater awareness of appropriate approaches to conflict solution than non-participants5, 8. Participating students also report less acceptance of dating violence than non-participating peers5.

The Fourth R program9, Safe Dates7, 10, and Shifting Boundaries are three school-based youth IPV programs that have been shown to decrease dating violence perpetration and victimization among adolescents6. Fourth R substantially reduces violent delinquency among youth with a history of child maltreatment and also increases participating adolescents’ condom use9. The Start Strong program, designed for middle school students, decreases gender stereotypes and acceptance of teen dating violence among participants two years after the intervention11. Overall, programs with longer durations and comprehensive approaches are more effective than shorter programs and programs without comprehensive approaches6, 7.

Youth IPV prevention programs may increase teen mothers’ awareness of gender stereotypes and community resources for teen dating violence12.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated no impact on disparities likely.
Implementation Examples

Safe Dates and the Fourth R are two examples of school-based intimate partner prevention programs with curriculum available online13, 14. Safe Dates training is offered in several states13 and the Start Strong program is implemented in 11 U.S. cities15. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC)’s Dating Matters, a middle school and community-based prevention initiative, has been implemented in four pilot sites (Baltimore, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, and Oakland, CA)16. Coaching Boys into Men17 is another example of a youth IPV prevention initiative.

Implementation Resources

CPS-Fourth R - Center for Addiction and Mental Health Centre for Prevention Science (CAMH-CPS). The Fourth R: Strategies for healthy youth relationships.

Safe Dates - Hazelden. Safe dates product - Information.

CDC-Teen dating violence - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Preventing teen dating violence.


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1 YG-Dating violence - (YG). Dating violence: Prevention programs.

2 CDC-Teen dating violence - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Preventing teen dating violence.

3 O’Leary 2012 - O’Leary KD, Smith-Slep AM. Prevention of partner violence by focusing on behaviors of both young males and females. Prevention Science. 2012;13(4):329–39.

4 CDC MMWR-YRBSS 2016 - Kann L, McManus T, Harris WA, et al. Youth risk behavior surveillance system (YRBSS) - United States, 2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 2016;65(SS-6):1-174.

5 Campbell-De La Rue 2014 - De La Rue L, Joshua P, Dorothy E, Pigott T. School-based interventions to reduce dating and sexual violence: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2014:7.

6 De Koker 2014 - De Koker P, Mathews C, Zuch M, Bastien S, Mason-Jones AJ. A systematic review of interventions for preventing adolescent intimate partner violence. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2014;54(1):3–13.

7 Whitaker 2006 - Whitaker DJ, Morrison S, Lindquist C, et al. A critical review of interventions for the primary prevention of perpetration of partner violence. Aggression and Violent Behavior. 2006;11(2):151-66.

8 Campbell-Fellmeth 2013 - Fellmeth GLT, Nurse J, Heffernan C, Habibula S, Sethi D. Educational and skills-based interventions for preventing relationship and dating violence in adolescents and young adults: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2013:14.

9 CBPP-Fourth R - Canadian Best Practice Portal (CBPP). Fourth R: Skills for youth relationships.

10 YG-Program search - (YG), Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP). Evidence-based program directories: Program directory search.

11 Miller 2015 - Miller S, Williams J, Cutbush S, et al. Evaluation of the Start Strong initiative: Preventing teen dating violence and promoting healthy relationships among middle school students. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2015;56(2 Suppl 2):S14-S19.

12 Herrman 2014 - Herrman JW, Waterhouse JK. A feasibility study to assess the effectiveness of safe dates for teen mothers. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing. 2014;43(6):695–709.

13 Safe Dates - Hazelden. Safe dates product - Information.

14 CPS-Fourth R - Center for Addiction and Mental Health Centre for Prevention Science (CAMH-CPS). The Fourth R: Strategies for healthy youth relationships.

15 Start Strong - Future Without Violence. Start Strong: Building healthy teen relationships (Start Strong).

16 CDC-Dating Matters - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dating Matters initiative (Dating Matters).

17 CBIM - Future Without Violence. Coaching Boys into Men (CBIM).