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Systematic review and meta-analysis of effects of community-delivered positive youth development interventions on violence outcomes
  1. G J Melendez-Torres1,
  2. Kelly Dickson2,
  3. Adam Fletcher3,
  4. James Thomas2,
  5. Kate Hinds2,
  6. Rona Campbell4,
  7. Simon Murphy3,
  8. Chris Bonell5
  1. 1Warwick Evidence, Division of Health Sciences, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
  2. 2Social Science Research Unit, Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI-Centre), UCL Institute of Education, London, UK
  3. 3DECIPHer, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
  4. 4DECIPHer, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  5. 5Department of Social and Environmental Health Research, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr G J Melendez-Torres, Warwick Evidence, Division of Health Sciences, Warwick Medical School, Medical School Building, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK; G.Melendez-Torres{at}


Background We systematically reviewed and meta-analysed evaluations testing the effectiveness of positive youth development (PYD) interventions for reducing violence in young people.

Methods Two reviewers working independently screened records, assessed full-text studies for inclusion and extracted data. Outcomes were transformed to Cohen's d. Quality assessment of included evaluations was undertaken using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. Effect sizes were combined using multilevel meta-analysis. We searched 21 databases, including MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CINAHL and CENTRAL, and hand-searched key journals and websites. We included studies where the majority of participants were aged 11–18 years and where interventions were delivered in community (not clinical or judicial) settings outside of normal school hours. We excluded studies targeting predefined physical and mental health conditions or parents/carers alongside young people. We defined violence as perpetration or victimisation of physical violence including violent crime.

Results Three randomised trials were included in this systematic review. Included evaluations each had design flaws. Meta-analyses suggested that PYD interventions did not have a statistically significant effect on violence outcomes across all time points (d=0.021, 95% CI −0.050 to 0.093), though interventions did have a statistically significant short-term effect (d=0.076, 95% CI 0.013 to 0.140).

Conclusions Our meta-analyses do not offer evidence of PYD interventions in general having effects of public health significance in reducing violence among young people. Evaluations did not consistently report theories of change or implementation fidelity, so it is unclear if our meta-analyses provide evidence that the PYD theory of change is ineffective in reducing violence among young people.


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  • Contributors GJM-T contributed to conducting the review, led the meta-analysis of outcome evaluations and contributed towards drafting this paper. KD managed the review day-to-day, and contributed to searching and report drafting. AF contributed to project planning and commented on report drafts. JT contributed to project planning, advised on meta-analysis and commented on report drafts. KH contributed towards report drafting. RC contributed to project planning and commented on report drafts. SM contributed to project planning and commented on report drafts. CB planned the project, and led on synthesis and report drafting.

  • Funding This project is funded by a grant from the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research programme (grant PHR 12/153/19). The work was undertaken with the support of The Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence. Joint funding (MR/KO232331/1) from the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, the Welsh Government and the Wellcome Trust, under the auspices of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, is gratefully acknowledged.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Institute of Education Faculty of Children and Learning.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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