Sonja Johnson-Brooks, Ph.D.


Psychology 2003

Area of Doctoral Study: Human Services Psychology
Undergraduate Institution: University of Maryland, College Park
Graduate Institution: George Washington University

Research Advisor: Dr. Lisa Jordan

Current Position: Operational  Psychologist  Manager, Department of Defense

Description of Research

Youth violence is a serious social health problem with physical, psychological, and educational implications. Research reveals that the most robust predictors of youth violence are frequent criminal acts and juvenile delinquency exhibited prior to or during adolescence. Types of delinquent behaviors most often seen during early adolescence include truancy, fighting, running away, and minor, first-time offenses such as stealing. Teachers are often faced with the early warning signs of serious violence (e.g., delinquent behavior) and can attest to the negative effects that early delinquency has on academic performance. Mental health professionals, on the other hand, usually do not become involved with potentially violent students until the behavior has become serious enough to warrant psychological and/or legal intervention. Since it has been shown that violent behavior is multi-determined, researchers have begun to assert that effective interventions should identify and address the multiple antecedents that lead to violence. In addition, programs for children from low-income, urban backgrounds are also in need since these children are at an increased risk for a host of problems including delinquency, substance abuse, and violent behavior.

The present study is an empirical investigation of the efficacy of the Behavioral and Academic Strategies for Success (BASS) program. The BASS program is a violence prevention program for girls at risk for violence due to signs of early delinquency and academic failure. Girls from five inner-city schools in the Baltimore Metropolitan area attended an intensive 10-week program that focused upon preventing violence through reducing early behavior problems, enhancing academic performance, and improving psychological functioning. The overall objectives of the research project were: (a) to conduct a 10-week violence prevention program with 6th grade girls, (b) to investigate the impact of the program on rates of delinquent behavior and academic functioning, and (c) to explore the effect of the program on the psychological well-being of the students. Evaluation of the violence prevention program will be based upon indicators of delinquent behavior, academic status, and psychological functioning following completion of the program.