U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Using grounded theory to develop a theory of change for a violence intervention program

NCJ Number
Evaluation and Program Planning Volume: 99 Dated: 2023
Date Published

This article describes the authors’ use of Grounded Theory as a methodology for enhancing the development of complex, hospital-based violence intervention programs, with the goal of highlighting the underlying mechanisms that promote change for individuals.


Hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIP) are critical to interrupting the cycle of violence. These interventions are considered "complex" in that they have many mechanisms of change and related outcomes. Few HVIPs clearly identify the underlying mechanisms of intervention and explicitly link those with key out-comes however, limiting the field's ability to know what works best and for whom. To develop a program theory of change for these "complex interventions," a non-linear, robust methodology that is grounded in the lived experience of those delivering and receiving services is needed. To aid researchers, evaluators, students, and program developers, we describe the use of Grounded Theory as a methodology to enhance the development of complex interventions, illuminating a non-linear approach that engages key stakeholders. To illustrate application, we describe a case example of The Antifragility Initiative, a HVIP in Cleveland, Ohio. The development of the program theory of change was conducted in four phases: (1) review of existing program documents, (2) semi-structured interviews with program developers (n = 6), (3) a focus group with program stakeholders (n = 8), and (4) interviews with caregivers and youth (n = 8). Each phase informed the next and culminated in a theoretical narrative and visual model of the Antifragility Initiative. Together, the theoretical narrative and visual model identify the underlying mechanisms that can promote change by the program. (Published Abstracts Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2023