Promoting Pro-Social Skills to Reduce Violence Among Urban Middle School Youth


  • Deb Risisky Southern Connecticut State University
  • James MacGregor Southern Connecticut State University
  • Deborah Smith Southern Connecticut State University (retired)
  • Jamie Abraham Tufts University
  • MaryJo Archambault Southern Connecticut State University



after-school program, youth violence, recreation programs


Adolescent violence is a significant public health problem. The goal of this evaluation was to determine whether communication skills, relationships with adults, and relationships with peers were enhanced through participating in an after-school program aimed at reducing violence-related behaviors among urban middle school youth. Elements that helped to foster success among our population were providing a program that enabled consistent choice in recreational activities in a safe place, and also providing busing home to increase safety. A non-experimental study was conducted with 115 students who participated in the program. Bivariate, ANOVA analysis, and Kruskal–Wallis tests were carried out. Results indicated that participating in the program significantly impacted student relationships with adults and their peers as well as positively impacted their communication skills. The program was designed with purposeful activities that would address pro-social behaviors, enhance youth interest, and increase attendance. The program specifically used recreation to help foster relationships with their peers and the adults in the program, with the intention of reducing conflict, and therefore violence among the students.

Author Biographies

Deb Risisky, Southern Connecticut State University

Deb Risisky, PhD, Associate Professor of Public Health at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Connecticut. Her research is in the area of program evaluation of youth violence, maternal health, and sexual violence prevention programs.

James MacGregor, Southern Connecticut State University

James MacGregor, EdD, CTRS, Associate Professor and Chair of Recreation, Sport Management and Tourism at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Connecticut. His research areas include inclusion and recreation, disability studies, and leadership development.

Deborah Smith, Southern Connecticut State University (retired)

Deborah Smith, EdD/PhD, Associate Professor of Recreation, Sport Management and Tourism at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Connecticut. Her research is in the area of positive youth development.

Jamie Abraham, Tufts University

Jamie Abraham, MPH, is a student in the DMD Predoctoral Program at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts.

MaryJo Archambault, Southern Connecticut State University

MaryJo Archambault, EdD, CTRS, Assistant Professor of Recreation, Sport Management and Tourism at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Connecticut. Her research is in the area of the therapeutic use of activities and adapted sports.


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