The impact of norms-shifting interventions on violence reduction

Evidence from the Passages Project shows that norms-shifting approaches can create supportive normative environments that lead to reductions in multiple types of violence in a variety of contexts. A norms-shifting intervention is an intervention that seeks to achieve its outcomes at least in part by changing the social norms or social expectations that drive behaviors of interest. For more information about norms and related concepts, please visit the Social Norms Lexicon.

Findings from three norms-shifting interventions—Responsible, Engaged, and Loving (REAL) Fathers; Growing Up GREAT!; and Masculinité, Famille et Foi—reveal significant reductions in intimate partner violence (IPV), violence against children such as harsh punishment and violent discipline of children, and child bullying behaviors.

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Top-level findings

  • Fathers and husbands were less likely to engage in some types of IPV.
  • Men’s and women’s attitudes related to justifications for IPV changed.
  • Fathers were less likely to engage in harsh punishment and violent discipline of children, and parents used new strategies to correct their children’s behavior.
  • Teasing and physical abuse among children decreased following program implementation.
Happy father holding a child

Interventions that addressed IPV, violent discipline of children, and child bullying behaviors

Father holding a child


Responsible, Engaged, and Loving (REAL) Fathers is a community-based mentorship program that works with young fathers in two regions of Uganda to promote skills and behaviors that reduce IPV and violent discipline of children and improve family planning use.

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Husband and wife


Masculinité, Famille et Foi (MFF) works with faith leaders and gender champions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to increase the use of modern family planning methods and reduce IPV among newly married couples and first-time parents.

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Group of kids


Growing Up GREAT! (GUG!) works with very young adolescents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along with their parents, caregivers, teachers, and health providers, to improve their reproductive health and well-being; increase gender-equitable behaviors in parenting, including mitigating violent discipline of children; increase health services access; and reduce bullying among youth.

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Which norms mattered?

Passages conducted an exploration of social norms to identify and prioritize norms for each of the interventions. Across Passages interventions, the norms listed below emerged as key to violence and violence prevention.

It’s important for men and women to take care of their families.

Men and women—and boys and girls—have different roles and responsibilities, such as chores, within households.

In some circumstances, violence against women and children is considered justifiable or necessary.

Engaging in violence is part of boyhood and manhood.

Violence within the family is a private matter.

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For more norms—and behaviors and attitudes—related to IPV and violent discipline of children, see the Social Norms Learning Collaborative’s Social Norms Atlas.

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Common strategies used to shift social norms to prevent IPV, violent discipline of children, and child bullying.

The Passages interventions’ program strategies are intentionally designed to lead to norms-shifting in communities as part of behavior change. Each of the interventions sought to shift norms as part of a multi-level, multi-component social and behavior change approach that also addressed other factors. The following strategies were integral to shifting social norms across interventions.

  • Supporting interpersonal dialogue and reflection on beliefs, values, and behaviors.
  • Fostering positive role models.
  • Encouraging social mobilization to promote shifts in beliefs and norms and new behaviors.
  • Promoting collective celebration, pledges, and testimonials.
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For more information, the Passages Theory of Change lays out how norms-shifting approaches are part of our pathway to change.

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Common strategies graphics


Evaluation results from REAL Fathers; Growing Up GREAT!; and Masculinité, Famille et Foi point to reductions in violent behaviors and changes in the broader normative environment, some of which could help reduce future violence.