Teen Dating Violence (TDV) and Sexual Violence (SV) is a serious public health concern often associated with both short and long term deleterious outcomes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014), “Teen dating violence is defined as the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner”. The numbers are compelling. A significant percentage of females and males report being victims of TDV with approximately one-third of females (35.6%) and one-quarter of males (28.5%) reporting experiencing physical or sexual violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.
Developmentally, behaviors associated with TDV develop during adolescence – particularly when early relationships have been abusive. Research suggests that patterns of violent behavior emerge during earlier dating years. Supporting these findings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011), found that 23% of females and 14% of males who reported experiencing rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced a variety of some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age. More recently, results from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) put forth that 10% of adolescents reported having experienced sexual victimization from a dating partner within the 12 months prior to survey administration.
This study is a group-randomized trial to be conducted with eighth grade youth enrolled in six middle schools. Three of the participating six schools will be selected to receive the prevention intervention. The remaining three schools will serve as a matched comparison group. This universal approach to prevention is designed to have effects on individual students through environmental and cultural change within the school. All youth will complete a baseline (pretest) assessment and 3 follow-ups (posttests).
The research team is led by Wayne State University investigators, Drs. Poco Kernsmith and Joanne Smith-Darden. Dr. Kernsmith is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work. Dr. Smith-Darden is an Assistant Professor of Research in the School of Social Work. For the past four years, Drs. Kernsmith and Smith-Darden have collaborated as co-PIs to examine modifiable protective factors in school and community environments to prevent teen dating violence.
In the first phase of the study, the YES curriculum will be adapted to address teen dating violence and sexual violence through a collaboration with the UM and WSU teams, and the involved schools and communities. The Selecting, Implementing and Adapting Youth Empowerment Solutions guide, developed by the UM team, will be used as a model for developing the adaptations while ensuring adherence to YES core concepts and components. The UM and WSU teams will collaborate with intervention schools to conduct an analysis of each school’s needs and resources, refine core messages for the prevention strategy, and build capacity for project implementation.
In the second phase, beginning in year two of the project, the Youth Empowerment Solutions for Healthy Relationships (YES-HR) curriculum will be implemented in the three intervention schools.
Evaluation of YES-HR will be conducted in the second and third years of the project. This evaluation will examine the effectiveness of the program in promoting Positive Youth Development (PYD) and reducing TDV. In addition, the evaluation will examine fidelity of the implementation and the cost-effectiveness of the program.