Preventing violence in context: The importance of culture for implementing systemic change

Wing Yi Chan, Mary Ann Hollingsworth, Dorothy L. Espelage, Kimberly J. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: To address the complexity of violence in the homes, schools, and neighborhoods of individuals, we need to shift our level of analysis from individuals to collectives and we need to direct research to prevention efforts. Thus, we argue for an ecological approach that emphasizes the influence of the collective systems (e.g., culture) and focuses on the interconnectedness between individual health and collective well-being. Key Points: Research on violence prevention has found strong evidence to suggest the importance of the family, peers, school, and neighborhood systems in reducing violent behaviors among children and adolescents (see Huston &Bentley, 2010 for a review). However, the impact of the cultural system is, in comparison, lesser known. As such, we need a theoretical framework that emphasizes culture as an important mechanism for change. In this paper, we will first briefly identify gaps in Bronfenbrenner's (1979, 1994) ecological systems theory, one of the most widely used frameworks to understand violence in context. Next, we will describe a community-based ecological approach (Kelly, 1968; Trickett, Kelly, &Vincent, 1983) and illustrate how such an approach with an emphasis on the cultural system builds upon and expands Bronfenbrenner's model of contextual influences on violence prevention. Conclusion: Finally, we will provide a few examples of prevention that are consistent with the community-based ecological approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-26
Number of pages5
JournalPsychology of Violence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Cultural system
  • Ecological model
  • Violence prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology


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