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July | August 2016

OJJDP Convenes Research Symposium on Youth Violence Prevention

OJJDP provides practitioners, policymakers, and the public with critical information about the latest research findings on juvenile justice issues and possible approaches to solving them. The Office recognizes that these findings need to be widely dissemi­nated if they are to be used to improve outcomes for the nation’s children.

During the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention’s Fifth National Summit on Preventing Youth Violence, OJJDP brought together 25 prominent youth violence prevention researchers to deliberate on what is known about preventing youth violence, the challenges and gaps that remain, and how both should inform the direction of research, practice, and policy.

Administrator Listenbee welcomed the researchers and thanked them for participating. “I don’t want you to just tell us what we want to hear. We want to do what works. So, if you have information or recommendations about how the federal government should prevent and address youth violence, we want to hear it,” said Mr. Listenbee.

Underscoring the importance of the symposium, top federal officials—Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Karol Mason, and White House Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Elias Alcantara—attended the second day of the session.

OJJDP staff and Dr. Edward Mulvey, director of the Law and Psychiatry Program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, facilitated the meeting. Dr. Mulvey also chairs the Office of Justice Program’s Science Advisory Board.

The researchers’ discourse affirmed that youth violence is preventable, and that a great deal has been learned about adolescent development, individual risk factors, and effective interventions that can strengthen a collective response to the problem. However, they also identified areas where science has fallen short in informing practice. For example, science has provided the field with knowledge about risk factors, but not as much is known about protective factors, resiliency, and wellbeing. The group discussed areas of additional research needs, such as:

  • Building upon what the field knows about evidence-based programs with the goal of reproducing positive results more widely, across different settings and various populations.
  • Identifying the individual components of successful programs that have the greatest impact in achieving programmatic goals. 
  • Developing innovative strategies and methodologies to effectively study place-based, community-focused, collaborative initiatives that aim to produce systems’ change.
  • Helping jurisdictions collect, report, and analyze their own data to identify what does and doesn’t work.
  • Understanding the implications of community contextual factors and implementation processes in the success of interventions.

The researchers emphasized the importance of partnering with practitioners and community members—not only to build the knowledge base of what works, but also to answer why it works for certain populations, in certain areas, and under certain conditions. It is important that building the knowledge base also include identifying the elements of community, context, and environment that facilitate or impede successful interventions, and understanding the components of the most effective violence prevention and reduction interventions.

The researchers also called for improvements in data collection and measurement practices. This includes building local data capacity with researcher input so that community indicators are specified and tracked, community-level change in youth violence is measured, and data is more readily available on violence (especially gun violence) involving youth.

OJJDP cosponsored the research symposium with the National Institute of Justice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


More information on the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention is available online. Watch the summit livestream archive on OJJDP’s website.

The Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College, supported by OJJDP, has released “Durable Collaborations: The National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention.” The report is based on a survey of community leaders in the 15 cities participating in the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention. The respondents report that the forum develops greater opportunities for youth and has resulted in more effective violence prevention approaches, improved perceptions of law enforcement, and a broader engagement of community members.