A theater intervention to prevent teen dating violence for Mexican-American middle school students

Ruth Ann Belknap, Kristin Haglund, Holly Felzer, Jessica Pruszynski, John Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Purpose: To test a theater intervention designed to raise awareness of the dynamics and consequences of teen dating violence (TDV) and to facilitate creation of nonviolent responses to TDV among Latino and Latina adolescents. The intervention was based on Theater of the Oppressed, which advocates the use of theater methods to explore social issues and to allow audiences to experiment with problem-solving, thereby promoting change. Methods: This study used a pretest-posttest, no control group, mixed-measures design to study 66 Mexican-American adolescents (mean age, 13.4 ± 5 years). Two plays containing subtle and overt signs of control and abuse were written and performed. Scripts were based on data from prior studies of TDV among Latino and Latina adolescents. At baseline, we measured sociodemographics, personal safety, and ethnic identity. Pre-post instruments measured acceptance of TDV, confidence to resolve conflicts nonviolently, and intentions to use nonviolent strategies to resolve conflict. We collected qualitative data via essay. Results: At posttest, participants had less acceptance of TDV (t = -2.08; p <.05), increased confidence to resolve conflicts nonviolently (t = 3.82; p <.001), and higher intentions to use nonviolent strategies (t = 3.35; p =.001). We analyzed 20 essays. Qualitative results provided context for understanding participants' changes in attitude, confidence, and nonviolent behavioral intentions. Conclusions: This adaptation of Theater of the Oppressed was an effective way to interact with Latino adolescents. In a safe setting, participants vicariously experienced TDV, which facilitated self-reflection and cognitive rehearsal strategies to respond nonviolently to TDV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-67
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Adolescent
  • Dating violence
  • Hispanic
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Mexican-American

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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