In March, 2012, we reported on baseline findings from an alarming evaluation study which showed that not only were many seventh graders actively dating, but that they were involved in abusive relationships. Now, a Sept. 2013 report describing the outcome findings from that same study shows that the national teen dating violence prevention initiative, Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships (Start Strong) had a positive impact on middle school students.
The complete evaluation study was commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Blue Shield of California Foundation (BSCF).
According to RWJF, this latest evaluation is one of the largest studies to look in-depth at healthy relationship development and teen dating violence prevention efforts directed at this young age group.
Start Strong was a multifaceted program, using education, parent, and teen influencer engagement, policy change, and social marketing strategies to promote healthy relationships and prevent dating violence among 11- to 14-year-olds in 11 sites across the country, from 2008 to 2012.
The evaluation demonstrates that young adolescents respond positively to prevention strategies. It also identifies new pathways for how efforts can be sustained through policy and practice change to address TDV prevention.
An online toolkit that will be available later this fall, will walk users through the most important lessons learned from Start Strong’s four years of successful healthy relationships and teen dating violence prevention programming. The toolkit includes insights, prevention strategies, advice and inspiring experiences from the Start Strong sites that educators, health professionals, violence prevention practitioners, and community leaders can use to promote healthy relationships among middle schoolers.
“Teen dating violence has a tremendous impact on our health and the well-being of entire communities. Through Start Strong, we saw an opportunity to give young people a healthier start in life by providing them with the skills they would need to have healthy relationships and ultimately prevent violence before it starts,” said James Marks, MD, MPH, senior vice president and director, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Group.
“Based on this evaluation and the experience of Start Strong, we are pleased to see communities taking a closer look at prioritizing healthy relationship development in middle school as an opportunity to prevent teen dating violence.”
Key findings from the Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships Evaluation Summary:
- Increase in Positive Attitudes and Behaviors: Compared with students in comparison schools, by spring 2011, students in Start Strong schools reported decreased acceptance of teen dating violence, more positive attitudes toward gender equality, increased parent-child communication about relationships, and increased support and satisfaction in their boyfriend/girlfriend relationships.
- Sustained Changes in Attitudes: Results persisted over time (from fall 2010 to spring 2012) for two key factors linked to the prevention of teen dating violence. Students at Start Strong schools reported decreased acceptance of teen dating violence, and more positive attitudes toward gender equality.
- More Positive Results for Students with Prior Dating Violence Experiences: Start Strong students who reported dating violence victimization, perpetration or both in fall 2010, classified as high-risk, showed more positive results on some outcomes than students who did not report such victimization and/or perpetration. For at least one follow-up (between fall 2010 and spring 2012), high-risk students reported a reduction in bullying behaviors, a more positive school climate, more positive attitudes towards gender equality, and increased parent-child communication.
- Policy Changes Achieved: By fall 2012, six of the 11 Start Strong communities achieved significant policy wins. As a direct result of their work, five sites secured important changes to TDV-related school district policies. Sites also provided technical assistance and awareness-building to inform changes to state legislation. State legislation was strengthened in three states.
- Efforts Sustained: All 11 sites established one or more practice changes that remained in place in the school year after the completion of Start Strongfunding, such as providing TDV education for all middle school students, staff training and parent education.
"Results of this evaluation set the foundation for future work on the prevention of dating violence among middle school students,” said Shari Miller, PhD, child clinical and research psychologist at RTI International.
For more information and the evaluation summary report, visit www.rwjf.org/startstrongevaluation.
You can download the complete study here.
More on Teen Dating Violence Awareness:
- Teen dating abuse: Help for mostly clueless parents (video)
- Teen Dating Violence: View and vote for your favorite student video PSA
- VIP partnership to end domestic violence
- Capitol Hill coalition forms to discuss stopping tween dating violence
- Teen dating violence awareness: New `Break the Cycle` initiative