Mediators of effects of a selective family-focused violence prevention approach for middle school students.
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This study examined how parenting and family characteristics targeted in a selective prevention program mediated effects on key youth proximal outcomes related to violence perpetration. The selective intervention was evaluated within the context of a multi-site trial involving random assignment of 37 schools to four conditions: A universal intervention composed of a student social-cognitive curriculum and teacher training, a selective family-focused intervention with a subset of high-risk students, a condition combining these two interventions, and a no-intervention control condition. Two cohorts of sixth-grade students (total N = 1062) exhibiting high levels of aggression and social influence are the sample for this study. Analyses of pre-post change compared to controls using intent-to-treat analyses found no significant effects. However, estimates incorporating participation of those assigned to the intervention and predicted participation among those not assigned revealed significant positive effects on student aggression, use of aggressive strategies for conflict management, and parental estimation of student’s valuing of achievement. Findings also indicated intervention effects on two targeted family processes: Discipline practices and family cohesion. Mediation analyses found evidence that change in these processes mediated effects on some outcomes, notably aggressive behavior, and valuing of school achievement. Results support the notion that changing parenting practices and the quality of family relationships can prevent the escalation in aggression and maintain positive school engagement for high-risk youth.