Program

May 07, 2013

OVERVIEW

My Choice, My Future! was a three-year abstinence education program.  In an analysis of the My Choice, My Future! program’s effectiveness, 8th graders in Powhatan, Virginia were randomly assigned to receive the My Choice, My Future! program or Powhatan’s existing health curriculum.  Five years after the study commenced, no significant differences were found between students assigned to the My Choice, My Future! program and students assigned to the existing program on measures of abstinence rate, age of sexual onset, number of sexual partners, pregnancy rate, STD acquisition, birth control use, or condom use.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: 8th, 9th, and 10th grade students

My Choice, My Future! was a three-year abstinence education program, funded by Title V, Section 510 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.  All such programs have as their exclusive purpose “teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity.”

During 8th grade, students participating in the My Choice, My Future! program received a 30-session implementation of the “Reasonable Reasons to Wait” curriculum.  This curriculum focuses on character development, reasons to wait to engage in sex, peer influence, dating, avoiding STDs, relationship skills, and the benefits and ingredients of a strong marriage.

During 9th grade, My Choice, My Future! students read “The Art of Loving Well,” an anthology about relationships.  Students spent eight sessions discussing early loves, romance, commitment, and marriage.

During 10th grade, My Choices, My Future! students received a 14-session implementation of the “WAIT Training” curriculum.  This curriculum deals with relationship skills and risk avoidance.  10th graders were also exposed to slides on STDs and are taught that abstinence is the only sure way to avoid contracting them.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Trenholm, C., Devaney, B., Fortson, K., Clark, M., Quay, L., & Wheeler, J. (2008). Impacts of abstinence education on teen sexual activity, risk of pregnancy, and risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 27(2), 255–276.

Trenholm, C., Devaney, B., Fortson, K., Quay, L., Wheeler, J., & Clark, M.  (2007).  Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs.  Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Evaluated population: Students enrolled as 8th graders in Powhatan, Virginia county schools between 1999 and 2001 were the subjects for this study.  Study participation for these students was non-elective.  Powhatan is a semi-rural area, inhabited primarily by middle- and working-class families.  551 Powhatan students completed baseline measures and 441 (81%) completed follow-up surveys.  82% of these students were white, 11% were black, 3% were Hispanic, and 4% were of other ethnicity.  67% of the students’ parents were married.

Approach: 8th graders were randomly assigned to the program group (n=348) or to the control group (n=203).  Students assigned to the program group received the My Choice, My Future! program during their 8th, 9th, and 10th grade years.  Students assigned to the control group received Powhatan’s existing health curriculum.  The existing program consisted of a nine-week health class in 8th grade that did not address sex and a similar class in 9th grade that did include material on abstinence, but did not cover contraceptive use.

Students completed surveys at baseline that assessed their participation in risk behaviors and their knowledge and perceptions of sex.  They completed three subsequent surveys over the course of the following 42-78 months.

Results: My Choice, My Future! had no positive impact on students’ sexual behaviors.  At the final follow-up (which occurred, on average, five years after a student entered the study), students assigned to the treatment group were no more likely to be abstinent than were students assigned to the control group.  Further, treatment students were no more likely to have abstained over the past year and were no more likely to intend to abstain in the future.  Treatment students were just as likely to have had four or more sexual partners, and they did not report having waited longer to start having sex.  They did not report using condoms or birth control any more or any less frequently than did control students.  Treatment students were just as likely as control students to have become pregnant, had a baby, or acquired an STD.

The program had no impact on other risk behaviors.  Students assigned to the My Choice, My Future! intervention and students assigned to the control group were equally likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and use marijuana.

My Choice, My Future! did lead to significant gains in knowledge of STDs among students assigned to the program.  Compared with students in the control group, students assigned to receive the My Choice, My Future! intervention had significantly greater knowledge of the risks and consequences associated with STDs.

My Choice, My Future! students were significantly more likely than were control students to correctly identify birth control as not preventing against STDs.  They were also more likely to incorrectly identify condoms as never preventing against STDs, however.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References:

Trenholm, C., Devaney, B., Fortson, K., Quay, L., Wheeler, J., & Clark, M.  (2007).  Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs.  Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Trenholm, C., Devaney, B., Fortson, K., Clark, M., Quay, L., & Wheeler, J. (2008). Impacts of abstinence education on teen sexual activity, risk of pregnancy, and risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 27(2), 255–276.

The “Reasonable Reasons to Wait” curriculum is available through A Choice in Education of Chantilly, VA.  This publisher can be contacted at: mo4character@juno.com

“The Art of Loving Well” is available for purchase at:

http://www.famyouth.org.uk/alw/aolwhome.php

Curriculum materials for the “WAIT Training” program are available for purchase at: http://www.waittraining.com/

KEYWORDS: Adolescence (12-17), Youth (16+), Middle School, Co-Ed, High School, School-based, Rural, White or Caucasian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Reproductive Health, STD/HIV/AIDS, Sexual Initiation, Behaviors, Abstinence, Condom Use, Contraception, Substance Use, Marijuana Use, Tobacco Use, Alcohol Use

Program information last updated on 5/7/13.