Abstinence is saying yes to the rest of your life.

 

 

 

Teen-Aid, Inc.

723 E. Jackson
Spokane, WA 99207
509-482-2868

What Does Research Show?

 

 

Researchers evaluated the Teen-Aid program for five years.

Their findings, presented at the conferences, are summarized here.

Five-Year Summary

Over five academic years (1987-1992), Teen-Aid has been involved in an Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs through a Health and Human Services funded research project that was geared toward the evaluation of the effectiveness of its sex education intervention program Me, My World, My Future and Sexuality, Commitment and Family. This program was designed to bring about awareness of sexuality information, to teach social skills, and to inspire in teens attitudes and values that would assist them in avoiding early sexual intercourse.

The Teen-Aid sex education program was also designed to encourage non-virgin students (those who indicated having sexual intercourse at least once) to stop having sexual intercourse by explaining to them the short and long-term benefits of abstaining.

The basic underlying assumption of the Teen-Aid sex education program was that sexual intercourse among teens was neither inevitable nor irreversible. The overall message of the curriculum was that sexual abstinence among adolescents is both normal and desirable.

In this summary, the following three types of research activities are highlighted: A guiding theoretical model, effectiveness of the Teen-Aid program, and the teacher factor.

This research endeavor began with a theoretical model that was employed to guide the research project throughout the five-year-period in identifying the key risk factors that seemed to be associated with intentions to have sexual intercourse. The theoretical model was designed to help enhance our understanding of the problem behavior targeted by the program. As this model has been developed, tested, and replicated over the last five years, it served as a practical tool against which the existing Teen-Aid program components could be evaluated for and modified to improve their effectiveness in reducing sexual activity among teens.

High school students with low to medium values (intentions to abstain) had a 30% reduction in transition from virgin to non-virgin status over a year's time as compared to the control group. Transition rates for high school students were more apparent in the expected direction than for junior high students. The junior high curriculum addressed abstinence for one hour while the senior high spent 6 hours on resistance skill and sexual advantages/consequences. In response to this research the junior high program update expanded the one lesson to five lessons.

 


The basic underlying assumption of the Teen-Aid sex education program was that sexual intercourse among teens was neither inevitable nor irreversible. The overall message of the curriculum was that sexual abstinence among adolescents is both normal and desirable.


 

The major dependent variable investigated in this model was "INTENTIONS REGARDING SEXUAL BEHAVIOR." This variable as well as most of the constructs of the study was measured using scales developed from factor scores based on a pool of items included in the self-administered questionnaire. These constructs included Affirmation of Abstinence, Rejection of Permissive Sex, Peer Support, Peer Pressure, and Future Orientation. This model was slightly modified during the five-year period and was replicated successfully each year.

Research Design the general approach for the evaluation of the Teen-Aid program was a pre-post, longitudinal follow-up, and control group comparison design. Overall, the research findings obtained from the five-year project clearly indicated that the Teen-Aid sex education program has consistently met many of its stated objectives of reducing the intentions to engage in sexual activity and hopefully, thereby, reducing the prevalence of associated consequences such as teen pregnancy rate, sexually transmitted disease rate, and dropout rate.

While each of the five years research data indicated that the Teen-Aid sex education prevention program made positive and statistically significant differences in attitudes, values, and intentions to have sexual intercourse among junior high school students, the "teacher factor" in administering a successful program emerged as a striking discovery. More specifically, this aspect of the sex education program had to do with the teacher's commitment (or lack of it) to teaching and communicating the program's philosophy and level of implementing objectives as presented in the curricula.

As currently designed, the Teen-Aid curricula implementation does not require screening of teachers, special accreditation, or teacher accountability. While teachers do receive training in specifics of abstinence philosophy and Teen-Aid curriculum content in an in-service training prior to their first year of teaching it, they are under no constraints once they enter their classroom. This of course could lead to a variety of styles, philosophies, and presentation strategies. It appears that this important factor needs more attention such as administrative support or frequent in-service training in the program and ultimately continued further analysis of the on-site data in order to understand more fully what is occurring.

 


In summary, the five-year research project has demonstrated that the Teen-Aid program has produced results that indicated abstinence among teenagers is attainable.


 

The first probe into the teacher factor was initiated during the analysis of the third-year data. The "teacher factor" was suspected as an important rival hypothesis when inter-school comparisons were made in examining the data. These comparisons indicated that there was a varying degree of program success and impact by school on the following six composite measures of sex education program outcomes targeted by Teen-Aid: Affirmation of Abstinence, Rejection of Permissive Sex, Sexual Intentions, Peer Support, Peer Pressure, and Future Orientation. In other words, the same sex education program impacted the target population differently in different schools but not necessarily in different student body compositions.

Therefore, a major objective of the fourth and fifth year data focused on further investigation of this phenomenon. This objective was accomplished by collecting data from teachers in addition to the student data and by linking student with teacher data for analysis purposes. The results uncovered what seemed to be an extremely important component for the success of any sex education intervention program.

The fourth and fifth year data indicated that indeed there were statistically significant differences in program outcomes across the different teachers who introduced the Teen-Aid curriculum. Program results were greater and were in the expected direction among students taught by teachers characterized by a greater level of program implementation and by a greater level of commitment to the underlying philosophy of the program than they were among students taught by teachers with lower levels of commitment to program implementation and its philosophy.

These results held up across all composite measures of Affirmation of Abstinence, Rejection of Permissive Sex, Sexual Intentions, Peer Support, Peer Pressure, and Future Orientation for both male and female respondents. The effect of the teacher factor on having a successful sex education program was observed more strikingly in the fourth than in the fifth year data.

To Teen-Aid, the implications of the fourth and fifth year results seemed to be very clear. To produce the desired effects, a sex education program, especially one that is based on abstinent sexual lifestyles, must not rely solely on a well-written, thoughtful or even research curriculum. Rather, it must 1) follow a multifaceted approach such as initial selection of teachers who are willing to fully implement the program and committed to adhering to the basic philosophical premises; and 2) if at all possible, follow an on-going, quantitative evaluation of student value and behavior outcomes. Either a copy of this evaluation survey instrument or a simplified version could be utilized to give staff feedback in maintaining program consistency over time.

In summary, the five-year research project has demonstrated that the Teen-Aid program has produced results that indicated abstinence among teenagers is attainable. Teaching abstinence does indeed reduce the probability of teens having sex, and hopefully reduces other outcomes as well, including contraction of STDs and HIV, the frequency of pregnancy, the need of raising a child alone, and abortion. Finally, the role of the teacher is found to be critical in an effective sexual postponement curriculum.

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