Addressing Adolescent Mental Health and Intimate Partner Violence in Muhuru Bay, Kenya (2023-2024)


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a global public health crisis, with nearly 30% of women worldwide reporting victimization. Rates are estimated to be even higher (approximately 44%) in sub-Saharan Africa. Women and girls are at higher risk for victimization, in turn placing them at heightened risk for chronic pain, substance use, HIV infection, depression and even suicide. 

Patterns of relationship violence often begin during adolescence, with an estimated 24% of girls globally experiencing it by late adolescence. Across low- and middle-income countries, formal safety resources for individuals in violent relationships are sparse; this especially true in rural settings. 

Much of the current IPV intervention work focuses on disrupting violence in adult relationships, but what if drivers of violence were targeted earlier? Intervention efforts during adolescence have the potential to prevent the downstream effects of IPV for victims and perpetrators. Culturally tailored and developmentally appropriate interventions are needed to target early drivers of IPV.

Project Description

This project aims to develop and pilot a culturally-tailored intervention to promote mental health and prevent intimate partner violence among adolescents in rural Muhuru Bay, Kenya. Very early stages of the intervention are currently taking place through community-based participatory research. 

The team will follow the transcreation framework, a seven-step process designed for the development and delivery of interventions in community settings to reduce health disparities. Steps progress from the beginning stages of engaging community partners through designing the intervention and ultimately delivering the intervention pilot. 

After developing the implementation protocol through community-based participatory research, the team will conduct a pilot trial among 40 adolescents. Team members will assess implementation outcomes and measure changes in adolescent mental health, attitudes and behaviors toward IPV. These will serve as preliminary indicators of whether the intervention may lead to positive change. Evidence from the pilot will be used to make iterative changes to the intervention alongside input from facilitators and community members.

Anticipated Outputs

Novel manualized treatment designed to address adolescent mental health and prevent emergence of intimate partner violence; preliminary implementation outcomes; academic publications with authors from Kenya and U.S.

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this project team will include 2 graduate students and 4 undergraduate students. The project would greatly benefit from the participation of master’s students enrolled in the population health sciences, bioethics and science policy, or statistical sciences programs. Ph.D. students enrolled in cultural anthropology or public policy would also make strong candidates. Ideal graduate student team members would have specific skills or interests in qualitative and quantitative data analysis, implementation science and global health/gender policy.

Undergraduate students with interests in psychology; global health; sociology; cultural anthropology; gender, sexuality and feminist studies; and global gender studies would all be a good fit for this project. Ideal undergraduate team members would have specific skills or interests in qualitative and quantitative data analysis, intervention content creation and community-based participatory research.

All students will have the opportunity to gain experience in mixed-methods data analysis, contribute to academic writing and publications and participate in academic conferences. Graduate and professional students will also have the opportunity to use project data for their own thesis projects and/or first-author publications.

Some students will have the opportunity to travel to Muhuru Bay, Kenya in the summer of 2023. This is a unique, full-time opportunity lasting 8-10 weeks between late May and early August. Other students may contribute to the project 5-10 hours a week from the United States during the summer, if interested.

Savannah Johnson will serve as project manager.

In Fall 2023, the team will meet on Friday mornings, with specific times scheduled around group availability.


Summer 2023 – Spring 2024

  • Summer 2023 (optional): Muhuru Bay, Kenya: assist with project management; collect data; train local intervention facilitators. United States: create intervention manual; manage data; virtually attend community advisory board meetings 
  • Fall 2023: Continue intervention-related project management (e.g., data collection); analyze qualitative and quantitative data; implement mixed-methods assessment of intervention-related changes 
  • Spring 2024: Write up pilot intervention findings; make iterative changes to intervention based on findings from pilot


Academic credit available for fall and spring semesters; summer funding available


Image: Muhuru Bay Sunset, by Victor Ochieng, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Sun setting over a body of water with two boats.

Team Leaders

  • Savannah Johnson, Arts and Sciences–Psychology and Neuroscience–Ph.D. Student
  • Eve Puffer, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Madalyn Bielskis, Psychology (AB)
  • Allison Falls, Psychology (BS)
  • Paridhi Goel, Psychology (AB)
  • Lauren Lloyd, Psychology (AB)
  • Vanessa Santini Gomes

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Ernestine Briggs-King, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

/zcommunity Team Members

  • WISER Girls Secondary School, Kenya
  • Florence Jaguga, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital