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Prevention Theories

The Social Ecological Model is a helpful framing tool for talking about primary prevention. It is commonly used in the field of public health as a way to look at a comprehensive prevention approach for many different health issues. The Social Ecological Model looks like four nested eggs. Each egg represents an area in which we can create change. The smallest one represents individuals, the second smallest one represents relationships, the next one represents communities, and the largest one represents society. These are all different spheres in which we interact with each other, and where we can influence each other. Effective prevention efforts focus on multiple levels of the social ecology.

The 9 Principles of Effective Prevention Programs was created using a review-of-reviews approach across four areas (substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, school failure, and juvenile delinquency and violence). The authors identified nine characteristics that were consistently associated with effective prevention programs, and this framework is widely utilized in the field of sexual violence prevention to create and evaluate prevention programming.

  1. Comprehensive Services: Strategies should include multiple components and affect multiple settings to address a wide range of risk and protective factors of the target problem.
  2. Varied Teaching Methods: Strategies should include multiple teaching methods, including some type of active, skills-based component.
  3. Sufficient Dosage: Participants need to be exposed to enough of the activity for it to have an effect.
  4. Theory Driven: Preventive strategies should have scientific or logical rationale.
  5. Positive Relationships: Programs should foster strong, stable, positive relationships between children and adults.
  6. Appropriately Timed: Program activities should happen at a time (developmentally) that can have maximum impact in a participant’s life.
  7. Socioculturally Relevant: Programs should be tailored to fit within cultural beliefs and practices of specific groups as well as local community norms.
  8. Outcome Evaluation: A systematic outcome evaluation is necessary to determine whether a program or strategy worked.
  9. Well-Trained Staff: Programs need to be implemented by staff members who are sensitive, competent, and have received sufficient training, support, and supervision.

Graphic showing the Spectrum of Prevention

The Spectrum of Prevention is a tool developed by the Prevention Institute to assist communities in developing comprehensive sexual violence prevention initiatives. Designed for broad scale change, it focuses not just on individuals, but also on the environment, including systems and norms that contribute to sexual violence.

By working at all six levels simultaneously, communities can design an effective plan that promotes confidence that their relationships, homes, neighborhoods, schools, places of worship, and workplaces are safer.