Preventing aggressive and violent behaviour: Using prevention programs to study the role of peer dynamics in maladjustment problems

P.A.C. van Lier, F. Vitaro, M. Eisner

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Two processes in the relationships between children have been associated with adverse developmental outcomes in children, namely, peer rejection and affiliation with deviant peers. In numerous studies, both of these processes have been linked not only to negative outcomes, including aggression, delinquency, violence, but also to school failure or internalizing problems. However, we yet have to understand the exact role of peer dynamics in the development towards maladjustment. Many prevention programs aim at manipulating peer dynamics in their effort to prevent aggression and violence. Apart from studying the effectiveness of such programs, these programs can provide valuable insight through which peer dynamics are linked with aggression and violence. In this study, we review prevention programs that studied the role of peer dynamics in the development to aggression and violent behaviors. First, we shortly describe the processes of peer rejection and deviant friends' affiliation. We then review three types of intervention programs: programs in unstructured settings, universal classroom-based programs, and targeted intervention aimed at the direct manipulation of peer processes. From these studies, we demonstrate that intervention success (and also intervention failure) is, to an extent, accounted for by peer dynamics. Implications for further research are discussed. We conclude that although preventive interventions that aim at manipulating the social context of children are promising, we should be cautious with a large-scale implementation of such programs as our knowledge of peer dynamics is yet too limited to ascertain the absence of unexpected negative effects. © 2007 Springer Science + Business Media B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-296
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal on Criminal Policy and Research
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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