Program

Mar 14, 2007

OVERVIEW

Project Taking
Charge was designed to reduce the occurrence of adolescent pregnancies in
high-risk, economically depressed areas by providing educational classes to
adolescents and their parents. The program included a six-week curriculum
for students as part of their home economics classes and three sessions of
meetings for parents and adolescents. Classes were randomly selected to
be in the treatment or in the control group. Treatment group classes
focused on abstinence and also encouraged discussion about career goals and
aspirations. Project Taking Charge proved to be largely ineffective in
changing sexual behavior. Only three out of 12 hypotheses were
supported. Adolescents gained significant knowledge of sexual development
and STDs, and so did their parents. Adolescents also improved communication
with their fathers regarding occupational interests. No significant delay
in initiation of sexual activity between the treatment and control groups was
found.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Seventh-grade students
at high risk for adolescent pregnancy and their parents

Project Taking Charge aimed to reduce the frequency of
adolescent pregnancies in economically depressed areas with high-risk
populations. The program consisted of a six week program for adolescents
enrolled in home economics classes and a three session component for the
adolescents and their parents administered in the evenings. Project
Taking Charge focused on promoting strong family values and abstinence from
sexual activity. Adolescents were expected to examine their attitudes
towards sexual development and intimate relationships, and parents were
expected to communicate family values and standards to their adolescents.
The program also involved developing occupational goals in adolescents by
encouraging parents and children to explore and discuss these aspirations together.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Jorgensen, S. R. (1991). Project Taking Charge: An
evaluation of an adolescent pregnancy prevention program. Family Relations,
40
(4), 373-380.

Evaluated population: A total of 136
adolescents and 126 parents were involved in the program when it began during
the fall of 1989. The program was delivered during the normal school day
for adolescents and during the evenings for the adolescents and their
parents. The program focused on occupational planning as a way to improve
adolescents’ motivation and ability to abstain from early sexual
activity. The program was initially administered at three sites deemed
appropriate due to the high incidence of adolescent pregnancy and the large
number of low-income families. These sites included Wilmington,
Delaware; West Point,
Mississippi; and
Ironton, Ohio.
At each of the three sites, the treatment and control groups were classes that
were randomly selected by the home economics teacher, and the number of
participants in these groups varied across sites. The sample population
was broken down into a treatment group, comprised of 77 adolescents and 69
parents, and a control group, which included 59 adolescents and 57
parents.

Approach: Adolescents in the treatment and control
groups completed a self-administered questionnaire prior to the six-week
course, and the parents in both groups were either interviewed over the
telephone or given a questionnaire to complete. The questionnaire was
designed to test for knowledge about teen pregnancy and sexuality, feelings
towards teen pregnancy and sexuality, adolescents’ alignment with parents’
beliefs, and the style of communication between adolescents and their
parents. Similar questionnaires were administered to the parents and adolescents
following the study and the results were analyzed. There was no student
attrition, and all but two parents provided data.

Results: After the six-week course for adolescents
and the three meeting sessions with both parents and adolescents, only three of
the 12 hypotheses were supported. Adolescents gained significant
knowledge of sexual development and STDs. Parents also showed increased
knowledge of sexual development and STDs. The adolescents also improved
on communication with their fathers about occupational interests. The
nine unsupported hypotheses were not associated with negative findings, but
rather with non-significant findings. Adolescents in the treatment group
were significantly more likely to understand issues of human sexuality, sexual
development, and STDs. They were also more likely to communicate
effectively with their fathers about vocational issues. Participants in
the treatment group were also slightly more likely to delay sexual intercourse
if they were not already sexually experienced than members of the control
group, but these findings were not statistically significant at the .05 level.

The authors note that one limitation of this study was the
brevity of the questionnaires administered to the adolescents and parents.
The questionnaires were shortened due to the limits on class time and
constraints based on the poor reading ability of many of the
participants. The relatively small sample size was also a limiting factor
because similar results with data from a larger sample size would be more
significant. In addition, the author notes that the finding that sexual
activity among participants in the treatment group was delayed following the
study should be viewed skeptically. It is important to take into account
the possibility that the participants in the treatment group might be more
hesitant to admit to participation in sexual activity than those who did not
participate in the program, regardless of the prevalence of actual sexual
activity.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Jorgensen, S. R. (1991). Project Taking Charge: An
evaluation of an adolescent pregnancy prevention program. Family Relations,
40
(4), 373-380.

Link to program curriculum: http://www.aafcs.org/resources/publications_catalog.html

KEYWORDS: Adolescence (12-17), School-Based,
Parent/Family Component, Education, Educational Expectations,
Reproductive Health, Teen Pregnancy, High-Risk, STD/HIV/AIDS, Sexual
Initiation, Black or African American, White or Caucasian, Hispanic or Latino.

Program information last updated 3/14/07

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