Evaluating a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program for Middle School Boys

Publication Date: May 4, 2020
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Introduction

Research Questions

  1. Compared to the standard school curriculum, did Wise Guys change boys’ behaviors, knowledge, attitudes, and intentions?
  2. Did the local social service provider successfully deliver the program as planned?
  3. How much did Wise Guys cost to implement?

This brief summarizes findings from a random assignment impact study of Wise Guys, a long-standing, widely implemented curriculum designed to help adolescent males make responsible decisions about their sexual behavior. Nationwide, boys report higher rates of sexual risk behaviors than girls do. In addition, becoming a father as a teenager is associated with completing fewer years of schooling and being less likely to graduate from high school. Recognizing the need for research on programs designed to support adolescent males, the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funded Mathematica to evaluate Wise Guys in seven middle schools in and around the city of Davenport, Iowa. A team of two trained facilitators from a local social service provider, Bethany for Children & Families, delivered Wise Guys as a voluntary elective class for 7th-grade boys.

Purpose

This brief provides a final summary of key implementation and impact findings from the evaluation of Wise Guys in Iowa. It encapsulates findings from three earlier reports that provide detailed evidence on the program’s impacts, implementation, and cost.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • Wise Guys was well implemented and provided a meaningful supplement to the sexuality and reproductive health education typically offered in study schools.
  • Compared to the standard school curriculum, Wise Guys did not change boys’ likelihood of sexual initiation after two years. On the two-year follow-up survey, only 1 in 10 boys reported ever having had sexual intercourse.
  • The low overall rate of sexual activity limited the program’s potential effect during the study period, a common challenge for assessing the effects of teen pregnancy prevention programs serving a young population.
  • The program did, however, increase boys’ knowledge of contraception and sexually transmitted infections, increased boys’ support for the view that sexually active youth should use condoms, and strengthened boys’ motivation to avoid getting someone pregnant.
  • After two years, the program did not change boys’ intentions to have sex, relationship attitudes, goal-setting ability, or communication skills.
  • The program cost $488 per student served.

Methods

Recruitment for the study started in fall 2013 and continued for three consecutive school years. To participate, boys had to receive written permission from a parent or guardian and complete a baseline survey. The study team randomly assigned participating boys to one of two research groups. Boys assigned to the treatment group were invited to attend the Wise Guys sessions as an elective supplement to the school’s regular curriculum. Boys assigned to the control group could not attend Wise Guys but continued to receive the sexuality and reproductive health education pro­vided as part of the school’s regular curriculum. The study team measured outcomes by administering surveys to boys in both research groups one and two years after enrollment.

Citation

Goesling, Brian, and Robert G. Wood. (2020). Evaluating a Teen Pregnancy Program for Middle School Boys. OPRE Report #2020-38. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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