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Preventing Youth Violence


The Study of Youth Violence Prevention Gets Boost with $4.3 million to UC Riverside Center

UCR is partnering with a community center in the Arlanza neighborhod of Riverside

(September 8, 2005)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) -- The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has awarded $4.3 million to continue and expand the programs of the Southern California Academic Center of Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention at the University of California, Riverside.

The five-year grant allows the center to become one of the eight comprehensive Academic Centers of Excellence funded by CDC in the country. UC Riverside joins schools of medicine and public health at such prestigious universities as Harvard and Johns Hopkins as a comprehensive center funded by the CDC.

“The funding speaks to our reputation as a leader in health-related research that seeks to understand and prevent youth violence,” said UC Riverside Psychology Professor Nancy G. Guerra, who directs the program. “It will also allow us to continue to conduct research on the causes and prevention of youth violence, and expand and improve partnerships with our community neighbors.”

According to statistics on the Center for Disease Control Web site (www.cdc.gov), homicide is the fourth leading cause of death for U.S. children 1 to 9 years of age, the fifth leading cause of death for children 10 to 14 years of age and the second leading cause of death for youth 15 to 24 years of age. Homicide and suicide combined account for 29 percent of deaths among youth, and everyday in the United States, an average of 17 Americans ages 24 years and younger die as victims of homicide.

The center at UC Riverside works in partnership with the Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies at UC Riverside. The Director of the Presley Center, UC Riverside Sociology Professor Robert Nash Parker, and Associate director, UC Riverside Sociology Professor Kirk R. Williams are Co-Principal Investigators, collaborating with Dr. Guerra. Professor Lyndee Knox in the Department of Family Medicine at USC is also a Co-Principal Investigator. Although based at UC Riverside, the center represents a consortium of faculty from other universities, including the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, the University of California at Irvine, the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of California at Santa Barbara.

The center works with educators, community leaders, teachers and area youth on programs aimed at preventing youth violence, through such methods as outreach programs, education and comprehensive research linked to real-life practice. The relations between cultural and ethnic divisions and youth violence are explored in depth. The center also runs a summer institute every other year, inviting graduate students from different universities to learn more about the causes and prevention of youth violence.

“The CDC program is action-oriented research based on a community participatory model,” Guerra said. “Our objective is to continue to build partnerships formed by common issues in the community. We are working with a neighborhood center in Riverside, and working with groups in Perris and Santa Ana to build community collaboration. We’re looking at problems, interventions and solutions.”

One intervention program involves parent training in child development delivered through primary-care health practitioners, researching whether family-practice physicians can act in a parent-training capacity, or at least initiate parent learning about parenting and child development.

“We’re also developing a new program for adolescents, Positive Life Choices. The focus of this program is to promote positive life choices, identity development, life skills and transition to adulthood,” Guerra said. “There are actually very few intervention programs in this field and even fewer that examine the impact on youth violence prevention.” Some of the materials in the intervention program are based on interviews conducted by UC Riverside undergraduate students enrolled in Guerra’s Adolescence course.

For information on the Southern California Academic Center of Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention, visit www.stopyouthviolence.ucr.edu

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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