Male high school athletes' skill to recognize and stop dating violence is better with the intervention of some of the critical role models in young men's lives, their coaches, states new study.
Dating violence is the physical, sexual and emotional aggression prevalent in adolescent romantic relationships.
A new study conducted in Sacramento, Calif., led by UC Davis researchers has found that a structured program delivered by coaches, called "Coaching Boys into Men", is effective for discouraging adolescent dating violence.
"The high school male athletes whose coaches delivered this easy-to-implement program reported more positive bystander behaviours, meaning that these boys were more likely to say or do something to stop disrespectful and harmful behaviours towards girls which they witnessed among their male peers," Elizabeth Miller, a member of the faculty of the UC Davis School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, said.
"Previous violence-prevention efforts have not generally included coaches as partners, yet coaches can be such important role models for their athletes.
"With the right training and support, coaches can encourage their athletes to be positive leaders in their communities and to be part of the solution," she said.
In the United States, one in three adolescent girls experiences physical, emotional or verbal abuse by a dating partner. Promoting non-violent attitudes among teen boys toward girls is recognized as a critical step to reduce the incidence of violence in these relationships.
"Coaching Boys into Men" (CBIM) is a high school athletics-based program that seeks to reduce dating violence by engaging athletic coaches as positive role models to deliver violence-prevention messages to young male athletes.
It is a national program created by Futures Without Violence, formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund, in 2000.
For the program, the coaches are trained in the use of the "Coaches Kit", a series of training cards that offers strategies for opening conversations about dating violence and appropriate attitudes toward women with young athletes.
The study was conducted among over 2,000 young male athletes in 16 high schools in four urban school districts in Sacramento County, Calif., between winter 2009 and fall 2010.
Eight of the schools were randomly selected to receive the program, while the other eight schools served as comparisons. Of the coaches approached, 87 percent agreed to participate in the study.
The ninth- through twelfth-grade student athletes who agreed to participate were administered a 15-minute baseline survey at the beginning of their sports season, which assessed their attitudes about dating violence and behaviours toward adolescent girls.
A similar survey was administered at the end of the sports season (the study included fall, winter and spring sports).
For example, questions sought to assess teens' perceptions of abusive behaviours such as "telling girls which friends they can or cannot see or talk to" and "telling them they're ugly or stupid".
Responses were assessed using a five-point scale that ranked answers from "not abusive" to "extremely abusive". Additional survey items assessed the athletes' level of agreement with statements such as "If a girl is raped it is often because she did not say no clearly enough" or "A boy/man will lose respect if he talks about his problems".
Youth were also asked about how likely they would be to intervene when witnessing various abusive behaviours, such as hearing a peer make derogatory comments about a girl's appearance.
The study has been recently published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.