Importance: Sexual and physical dating violence is prevalent among adolescents and is associated with adverse health effects.
Objective: To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials to assess the efficacy of prevention programs for sexual and physical dating violence in adolescents.
Data sources: Search terms were combined for dating violence, adolescents, and randomized clinical trials in PsycINFO/Eric/PsycArticles, PubMed, and Web of Science databases from inception through April 2021.
Study selection: Included studies had a randomized design of any type examining the efficacy of an intervention to reduce dating violence among adolescents and provided at least 1 measure of sexual or physical dating violence.
Data extraction and synthesis: Data extraction coded characteristics of trials, participants, and interventions and assessed risk of bias using the Revised Cochrane Collaboration Risk of Bias tool. Outcomes were pooled using a random-effects model. Subgroup and meta-regression analyses were performed to explore the target population and intervention factors associated with positive outcomes.
Main outcomes and measures: The odds ratio (OR) was calculated for 3 different outcomes: (1) sexual dating violence, (2) physical dating violence, and (3) composite measures of sexual and physical dating violence. For each outcome, separate analyses were conducted for survivorship and perpetration scores. We also combined the scores of physical/sexual violence and perpetration/survivorship of teen dating violence into a single composite overall outcome including all studies.
Results: Eighteen trials (22 781 adolescents) were included. Overall, interventions were associated with reduced physical and sexual dating violence (OR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.69-0.89; P < .001). Separate analyses further indicated that this association was significant for physical violence perpetration (OR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.59-0.92; P = .01) and survivorship (OR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.64-0.95; P = .01). For sexual violence, the association was not statistically significant. Exploratory subgroup analyses revealed that trials targeting at-risk youth, older adolescents (age >15 years), and trials involving parents in the intervention reported significantly larger effect sizes. Meta-regression analyses did not show any significant associations between intervention effect sizes and length or intensity of the programs. Publication bias was observed, but the adjusted ORs remained significant. Three studies reported iatrogenic associations.
Conclusions and relevance: Findings from this study suggest that prevention programs may be effective in reducing physical teen dating violence, but there is unclear evidence of the effect on sexual violence outcomes. Further research assessing the active ingredients of interventions, especially in the area of sexual dating violence, is warranted.