Research shows the most effective prevention programs prioritize the underlying structural factors affecting youth
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dr. Stephanie Hawkins, Vice President of the Transformative Research Unit for Equity (TRUE), at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, testified today before the Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor. The hearing focused on investments in prevention for juvenile justice programs.
Dr. Hawkins testified that research shows the most effective prevention programs prioritize the underlying structural factors that can negatively affect the lives and outcomes of youth as part of a panel of four experts.
“When we focus on the broader structural factors that influence the lives and outcomes of youth, rather than interventions designed only to change their behavior, we can amplify the impact of our federal programs and thereby empower our youngest citizens – especially Black, Hispanic/Latin, and Native American individuals – to achieve their greatest potential,” Dr. Hawkins told the subcommittee.
Key points from Dr. Hawkins’ testimony:
- It is important to acknowledge that the risks associated with juvenile justice system involvement are not equally distributed in the U.S.
- Primary prevention efforts that prioritize the underlying structures responsible for inequitable distribution of risk can create thriving communities with resource-rich educational institutions, well-functioning public services, and economic opportunity for all residents.
- If we embrace primary prevention as a means of avoiding the initial occurrence of a problem, then we can scaffold our young people, their families, and their surrounding communities with structural support.
Dr. Hawkins received doctoral training in clinical psychology from Howard University in a program grounded in community-engaged research to serve globally unserved settings. She received postdoctoral training in violence prevention research from Stanford University's Medical Center.
During her research career of more than 25 years, prevention and equity have been a through-line. She has led several relevant national research studies including girls’ involvement in the juvenile justice system, boys and men of color and their experiences with community violence and suspension diversion programming as a strategy to interrupt the school to prison pipeline.