Contextualizing Relationship Education and Adolescent Attitude Toward Sexual Behavior: Considering Class Climate
Using data from a statewide relationship education (RE) program targeting a diverse adolescent sample, this study examined RE implementation in classroom environments.
The purpose of this study was to explore (1) whether there is a beneficial RE program effect for change in individual attitudes toward sexual delay, (2) whether individual factors—student gender and sexual activity—predict change in attitudes toward sexual delay for students experiencing the intervention, and (3) whether classmate characteristics influence individual change in attitudes toward sexual delay.
This study utilized multilevel modeling procedures to examine both individual- and classroom-level predictors of change in attitudes toward sexual delay.
At the individual level, results indicated that females demonstrated more change in attitudes toward sexual delay than males and students who were sexually active demonstrated less change toward sexual delay compared with students who were not sexually active. At the classroom level, both racial composition and the proportion of sexually active classmates influenced individual attitude change. Although students in classrooms with higher proportions of African American peers demonstrated less attitude change toward sexual delay, the proportion of sexually active peers in the classroom appeared to be a more salient aspect of classmate composition.
Overall, this study supports the importance of considering both individual characteristics as well as social context when assessing program experience and effectiveness. Implications for future research and practice are offered.
KeywordsAdolescent sexual risk Classroom social climate Intervention context Relationship education
Dr. Adler-Baeder has received research grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (90FE0001).
Dr. Adler-Baeder, as the PI on the project, takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and all co-authors take responsibility for the accuracy of the data analysis.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Human and Animal Rights
This article does not contain studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.
- Adler-Baeder, F., Bradford, A., Skuban, E., Lucier-Greer, M., Ketring, S., & Smith, T. (2010). Demographic predictors of relationship/marriage education participants’ pre- and post-program relational and individual functioning. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 9, 113–132. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332691003694885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
- Brown, T. A. (2006). Confirmatory factor analysis for applied research. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Brown, B. B., & Larson, J. (2009). Peer relationships in adolescence. In R. M. Lerner & L. Steinberg (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent psychology (3rd ed., pp. 74–103). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Bryk, A., & Raudenbush, S. W. (1992). Hierarchical linear models. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- DiCenso, A., Borthwick, V. W., Creatura, C., Holmes, J. A., Kalagian, W. F., & Partington, B. M. (2000). Completing the picture: Adolescents talk about what’s missing in sexual health services. Canadian Journal of Public Health. Revue Canadienne de Sante Publique, 92, 35–38.Google Scholar
- Furman, W., & Shaffer, L. (2003). The role of romantic relationships in adolescent development (pp. 3–22). Adolescent romantic relations and sexual behavior: Theory, research, and practical implications.Google Scholar
- Kerpelman, J. L. (2007). Youth focused relationships and marriage education. The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues, 12(1). Retrieved from http://ncsu.edu/ffci/publications/2007/v12-n1-2007-spring/index-v12-n1-may-2007.php.
- Martens, M. P., Page, J. C., Mowry, E. S., Damann, K. M., Taylor, K. K., & Cimini, M. D. (2006). Differences between actual and perceived student norms: An examination of alcohol use, drug use, and sexual behavior. Journal of American College Health, 54, 295–300. https://doi.org/10.3200/JACH.54.5.295-300.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- O’Donnell, L., Stueve, A., San Doval, A., Duran, R., Haber, D., Atnafou, R., et al. (1999). The effectiveness of the Reach for Health Community Youth Service learning program in reducing early and unprotected sex among urban middle school students. American Journal of Public Health, 89, 176–181.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Pearson, M. (2007/2013). LoveU2: Relationship Smarts Plus. Berkeley, CA: The Dibble Fund for Marriage Education.Google Scholar