Model on Risk Avoidance Theory and Research, Informing an Optimal Health Model


The goal of this project is to develop a conceptual model to understand the pathways to sexual risk avoidance for prevention of teen pregnancy. The model is intended to be foundational for considering how to empower youth to avoid teen sex. The research team will consider relevant theories and explore existing conceptual models and public health messaging that prioritizes optimal health, both within the field of sexual risk avoidance and outside of it. The final product will be a conceptual model for use within the sex education field that is potentially adaptable to other youth risk behaviors.

Two primary activities will inform the conceptual model development: (1) a comprehensive and structured literature review of the theoretical foundation of sexual risk avoidance and the evidence on the effectiveness of program approaches, including public health messaging related to sexual and other risk behaviors; and (2) input from a set of experts on teen development and risk-taking behavior.

This project is being conducted under contract to Mathematica Policy Research and is overseen by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, in collaboration with other partners at the Administration for Children and Families and HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.

Point(s) of contact: Tia Brown and Caryn Blitz

Related Resources

This brief presents two complementary conceptual models—one for sexual risk avoidance and a second for sexual risk cessation—that aim to guide efforts to prevent youth risk behaviors and promote optimal health. Building on an earlier brief that presented initial versions of the conceptual models, this brief describes refined versions of the conceptual models enhanced through additional information and analysis.

Policymakers and practitioners are interested in identi­fying strategies and approaches to empower youth to make informed decisions that promote optimal health. Such decisions include the avoidance and cessation of sexual risk. Identifying the factors that influence youth’s decisions to avoid or cease sexual activity can support policymak­ers, practitioners, and public health officials as they develop programming and policy to improve risk-related outcomes...