Joining efforts to improve prevention research

This month, Laura Castillo talks about her participation at the 2018 World Meeting of the International Society for Research on Aggression (ISRA) and shares her reflections on how collaboration across different fields of prevention research could lead to better strategies to tackle behavioural problems.

Last month I went to the ISRA World Meeting in Paris. At this conference, a lot of prevention research was presented. The results of strategies and programs to prevent violent crime, intimate partner violence, child abuse, bullying and other forms of aggression in different ages were discussed. However, I was surprised that I had not seen any of these researchers at the European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR) conference last year. I even talked about it with some other early career researchers doing work on prevention and they had never heard of EUSPR before.

I have to admit that this was not a total surprise. There was not much violence prevention research presented at the EUSPR conference last year. However, this made me realise how compartmentalised prevention research is at the moment and how in need we are of communicating and sharing our research and findings with other areas.

Different problem behaviours such as drug abuse, interpersonal aggression, binge drinking and crime are highly correlated and share many risk and protective factors. Some researchers have even talked of a behavioural syndrome1. This suggests that the same prevention strategy could be used to tackle different problem behaviours. There have already been some efforts in that direction2. However, many prevention programs focus on specific problem behaviours. If we really want to make a difference, we need to join efforts and look beyond our specific area of research to find effective strategies.

My poster presentation at ISRA World Meeting in Paris

 

In my research, for example, I am looking into how behaviour change techniques from health psychology, which are mostly applied to health behaviours such as smoking or healthy eating, can be applied to aggression. This includes identifying which techniques are more effective and how the application for health behaviours and for aggression can be compared. However, this is only one way to bring research from different areas together. Another quite common way is implementing a prevention strategy that has been effective for preventing a specific behaviour and testing its efficacy to prevent a different but related behaviour. That has been done, for example, with the program Safe Dates, a program for dating violence that is also effective to reduce peer victimization and weapon carrying.

It is true that this kind of research usually needs more resources. Sometimes we will even need to collaborate with experts and practitioners from different areas, which have different ways to work and understand prevention. However, dealing with these issues is, in my opinion, the way to advance prevention research.

The EUSPR conferences have the potential to become the place where researchers and practitioners from different areas can gather, share ideas and get the collaborations started to make this world a better place. That is why I would like to encourage everyone working on prevention research, regardless of the area, to attend and spread the word about the EUSPR conferences at other events where prevention is discussed.

About the author:

Laura Castillo is a PhD student at the University of Sheffield, UK. Her area of research is aggression and violence prevention. In her PhD project she is identifying the most effective techniques to prevent and reduce aggression among adolescents and she is developing a brief intervention using those techniques. You can follow her work and contact her via Twitter @laucaseit.

  1. Donovan, J. E., & Jessor, R. (1985). Structure of problem behavior in adolescence and young adulthood. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology53(6), 890. []
  2. Scott, S., Sylva, K., Doolan, M., Price, J., Jacobs, B., Crook, C., & Landau, S. (2010). Randomised controlled trial of parent groups for child antisocial behaviour targeting multiple risk factors: the SPOKES project. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry51(1), 48-57. []

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