Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 48, Issue 7, pp 2037–2053 | Cite as

Does the Gendered Approach of Bystander Programs Matter in the Prevention of Sexual Assault Among Adolescents and College Students? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

  • Heather Hensman KettreyEmail author
  • Robert A. Marx
Original Paper


Sexual assault is a significant problem among adolescents and college students in the U.S. One promising strategy for preventing sexual assault is the implementation of bystander programs, which encourage young people to intervene when witnessing incidents or warning signs of sexual assault. The evidence base for the effectiveness of bystander programs appears to be promising, but we know little about which programs are most effective in preventing sexual assault. This is a significant oversight, as bystander programs vary in content, particularly in their gendered framing of sexual assault. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we synthesized high-quality research examining the effects of bystander programs on (1) bystander intervention and (2) self-reported perpetration of sexual assault. Paying special attention to a gendered approach as a moderator of program effects, we synthesized data from 14 independent studies (N = 7881). Twelve studies were randomized controlled trials and two used high-quality quasi-experimental designs. Findings indicated that bystander programs have a significant, desirable effect on bystander intervention, but no significant effect on sexual assault perpetration. Despite calls for sex-segregated implementation of sexual assault programs, we found no evidence that method of implementation (i.e., individual, single-sex group, mixed-sex group) moderated the effect of bystander programs on bystander intervention. Additionally, we found no evidence that gendered framing of sexual assault (i.e., portraying sexual assault as a gender-neutral problem or a gendered problem overwhelmingly affecting young women) moderated the effect of bystander programs.


Sexual assault Bystander Meta-analysis Adolescence Prevention 



We would like to thank Emily Tanner-Smith for her valuable methodological insight on this project.


This research was supported by a grant from the Campbell Collaboration (CSR1.60).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

This research was a quantitative synthesis of publicly available material. Thus, ethical approval from the authors’ Institutional Review Board was not required.

Informed Consent

This research did not involve human participants. Thus, informed consent is not applicable.


*Denotes study included in meta-analysis

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal JusticeClemson UniversityClemsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Child and Adolescent DevelopmentSan Jose State UniversitySan JoseUSA

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