Program

May 31, 2013

OVERVIEW

Teens in Control was a two-year abstinence education program.  In an analysis of the Teens in Control program’s effectiveness, 5th graders in Clarksdale, Mississippi were assigned to receive the Teens in Control program or Clarksdale’s existing health curriculum.  Five years after the study commenced, no significant differences were found between students assigned to the Teens in Control 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, and condom use.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: 5th and 6th grade students

Teens in Control was a two-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 5th grade, students participating in the Teens in Control program met weekly and received the “Postponing Sexual Involvement” (PSI) curriculum.   This curriculum alerts students of risks and pressures associated with early sexual involvement and helps students develop skills that will help them remain abstinent.  Class sessions involve extensive practice and reinforcement of relevant skills.  (The LINKS write-up of PSI is available here.)

During 6th grade, Teens in Control students also met weekly, receiving the “Sex Can Wait” curriculum.  This curriculum covers self-concept and self-esteem, values, the psychological and physical changes of puberty, the risks associated with STDs, communication skills, and skills for resisting social and peer pressures.  Additionally, students spent time formulating career goals and learned how remaining abstinent would help them achieve these goals.

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 5th graders at selected schools in the Clarksdale, Mississippi area between 1999 and 2001 were the subjects for this study.  Study participation for these students was non-elective.  Clarksdale is a rural area, inhabited primarily by poor families.  849 Clarksdale students completed baseline measures and 715 (84%) completed follow-up surveys.  None of these students were white, 87% were black, 7% were Hispanic, and 6% were of other ethnicity.  31% of the students’ parents were married.

Approach: 5th graders were randomly assigned to the program group (n=450) or to the control group (n=399).  Students assigned to the program group received the Teens in Control program during their 5th and 6th grade years.  Students assigned to the control group received the district’s existing health curriculum.  The existing curriculum was very limited and consisted primarily of occasional presentations by outside organizations.

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: Teens in Control 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 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.

Students assigned to the Teens in Control intervention and students assigned to the control group were equally likely to drink alcohol and use marijuana.  Teens in Control students were less likely to smoke cigarettes, however.

The Teens in Control intervention did not lead to greater knowledge of the risks and consequences associated with STDs, nor did it lead to understanding the preventative power of condoms.  Compared with control students, program students were significantly more likely to incorrectly identify condoms as never preventing against STDs.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

Curriculum materials for the “Postponing Sexual Involvement” program are available for purchase at:

http://www.siecus.org/pubs/biblio/bibs0010.html

Curriculum materials for the “Sex Can Wait” program are available for purchase at:

http://www.uark.edu/depts/hepoinfo/

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.

KEYWORDS: Middle Childhood (6-11), Children (3-11), Adolescence (12-17), Elementary School, Middle School, School-based, African American or Black, Hispanic or Latino, Rural, Life Skills Training, Self Esteem, Reproductive Health, STD/HIV/AIDS, Sexual Initiation, Abstinence, Substance Use, Alcohol Use, Tobacco Use, Marijuana Use, Manual Is Available

Program information last updated on 5/31/13.

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