Pregnant and Parenting Teen Initiative

Best Practices

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A Resource Guide of Best Practices for Pregnant and Parenting Teen Programs

School Safety and Violence Prevention

Domestic Violence
Physical Abuse
Dationg Violence
Sexual Abuse
Best Practices


Violence occurs in one out of four families in the United States. Young people are confronted with the threat and the stark reality of violence in their schools, on their streets, and all too often, in their homes. Violence is a manifestation of other, equally disturbing problems among children, youth and families, among them, the increasing number of out-of-wedlock and teen births.

The secrecy, shame and stigma often associated with victimization make it difficult to identify individuals imminently at risk and provide the necessary support, counseling, education and referral. This underscores the need to address these issues in a direct and practical manner for all young people. Programs and services should convey that violence and victimization are not acceptable or permissible and promote personal skill development in refusal, coping and assertiveness. Young women need to feel confident in their ability to both resolve conflicts and to protect themselves.

Parent education and family support programs offer services in local communities that strengthen families to help parents better nuture and support their children, and prevent family violence, substance abuse and teen pregnancy. A range of violence prevention plans-in schools, on the streets to and from school, in individual neighborhoods-are necessary to protect children and youth. Positive youth activities after school, on weekends and during the summer provide safe, structured alternatives to the streets, and to a variety of risk-associated behaviors.

Violence prevention efforts must be the work of the total community-education, health, business, human services, clergy. If the community does not value, protect, care for and include its children, neglect and alienation may drive them to seek out acceptance and affiliation in counterproductive ways, such as joining gangs, initiating sexual behavior at an early age, or even becoming sexually promiscuous.

Domestic Violence

The primary cause of injury to women is partner battery. In the United States, a woman is beaten by her husband or boyfriend every 18 seconds. One in four teenage girls becomes involved in a physically or sexually abusive relationship. The best prevention is education, promoting recognition of the stages in the "cycle of violence" -honeymoon to tension to explosion.

Physical Abuse

Many pregnant teenagers have histories of physical abuse. Studies have shown that children who have been physically assaulted are at higher risk of developing aggressive behavior. As parents, people with a history of maltreatment are six times more likely than the general population to abuse their own children- a manifestation of the generational "cycle of violence." Educating teens offers hope for those in abusive families that they can "break the cycle."

Dating Violence

Very often, young people in dating relationships demonstrate controlling and manipulative behaviors. This may indicate serious and potentially dangerous problems for both young people in the relationship. At the least, their academic progress and success in school will be compromised. At the worst, the situation could be lethal.

Almost 60 percent of students involved in dating violence come from violent families. Stress, alcohol and other drug abuse, social and age inequality between teen partners, dating frequency, low family incomes and poor interpersonal communication skills are other risk factors identified in abusive relationships. Nonconsensual sexual intercourse between people who are acquainted with each other or are dating is the most common type of rape, accounting for 70 to 80 percent of rape crisis center contacts. Acquaintance rape involves the use of physical force, emotional bargaining, blackmail or mind games to force sexual intercourse.

Sexual Abuse

Approximately one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually assaulted before the age of 18. Studies of pregnant adolescents indicate an even higher rate of sexual victimization with as many as half to two-thirds reporting sexual abuse histories. Sexual abuse survivors are more likely to participate in activities that increase their risk of unintended pregnancy. Not surprisingly, they often begin voluntary sexual relationships earlier and have sex more often. Thus, they are more likely to become pregnant before age 18 than are their non-abused peers.

Some teens intentionally become pregnant to escape abuse. Pregnant teens are often described as having low self-efficacy and self-esteem, as well as feelings of powerlessness and alienation. These risk factors overlap with those for child sexual abuse, as well as other forms of victimization. It seems that sexual victimization eradicates the very skills needed to make appropriate decisions and take action to prevent negative sexual outcomes. This is an important consideration in planning programs and services for the teenage population.

Best Practices

Mobilizing a Community

Communities That Care is a program based on the simple pretense that identifying and reducing the risk factors associated with a problem is a preventive approach. Communities That Care seeks to mobilize communities to organize and strengthen existing prevention efforts to create a web of support and enhance protective factors that buffer against risks.

Community risk factors associated with violence are:

  • availability of firearms;
  • community laws and norms favorable toward drug use, firearms and crime;
  • media portrayals of violence;
  • low neighborhood attachment and community disorganization;
  • extreme economic deprivation;
  • family management problems;
  • family conflict;
  • favorable parental attitudes and involvement in the behavior;
  • early and persistent antisocial behavior;
  • academic failure in elementary school;
  • friends who engage in the problem behavior;
  • early initiation of the problem behavior; and
  • constitutional factors (biologically or physiologically based).
For more information, contact:
Governor's Community Partnership for Safe Children
Clay Yeager, Executive Director
(800) 692-7292, ext. 3101

School and Community Resources

Integration of school and community resources is key to the development of effective, comprehensive and relevant programs of information, education and, when needed, intervention to address the issue of violence.

School programs

  • Student Assistance Programs
  • Family Centers
  • school health services
  • peer mediation
  • conflict resolution
  • parenting education programs
  • pregnant and parenting student programs

Local law enforcement agencies

  • procedures for obtaining a PFA (Protection From Abuse) order
  • profiles of sexual deviance
  • child abuse and protection issues
  • rape prevention tactics and self defense
  • crime victims organizations
  • emergency assistance for victims of rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse and other violent crimes
  • specialized information regarding rape, sexual abuse and other violent crimes

Domestic violence shelters

  • advocacy for abused adults
  • intervention for abused adults
  • shelter for victims of domestic abuse
  • counseling and support groups
  • legal advocacy and legal information regarding the Protection From Abuse Act
  • information regarding domestic abuse

County Offices for Children and Youth

  • child protective services
  • foster care
  • parenting assistance
  • counseling for children
  • information about physical/sexual and emotional child abuse and child neglect
  • Family to Family initiative

Parents Anonymous groups

  • volunteer support and educational groups for parents

Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

  • information and referral regarding child abuse

Health providers

  • child abuse identification
  • domestic abuse identification
  • information

Child abuse hotlines

  • childline (child abuse reporting)
  • local hotlines (encouraging parents and caretakers of children to call if they feel they might lose control and harm a child)

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Center for Schools and Communities


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last updated April 30, 1999

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