Academic journal article Family Relations

Preteen Enrichment: Evaluation of a Program to Delay Sexual Activity among Female Adolescents in Rural Appalachia

Academic journal article Family Relations

Preteen Enrichment: Evaluation of a Program to Delay Sexual Activity among Female Adolescents in Rural Appalachia

Article excerpt



Lynn Blinn-Pike*

The purpose of this study was to evaluate a project to delay sexual activity among early adolescents in rural Appalachia. Onehundred and twenty-six 11- and 12-year-old White girls were involved in a year-long school-based program designed to improve self-concept, expectations for the future, educational plans, perceptions of maternal acceptance, and knowledge of human reproduction. The intervention participants, as compared to the comparison participants, revealed somewhat less traditional sex role orientations, significantly improved self-concept, and lessened anxiety. Implications are presented for the replication of this project model in other rural schools.

The adolescent pregnancy rate in the United States continues to be the highest among the industrialized nations. The statistics on early adolescent pregnancy are particularly alarming. In 1990, more than 11,600 children were born to mothers under the age of 15 in the U.S., which was 2% of all births to mothers less than 20 years of age. These mothers represented a subpopulation of young adolescents at high risk for medical problems for themselves (e.g., subsequent adolescent pregnancies) and their babies (e.g., inadequate physical, social, and psychological development; Merkel-Holguin, 1993).

According to Kathchadourian (1990) and Koch (1993), there are very few studies on the first sexual behaviors of early adolescents. Yet Coles and Stokes (1985) reported that among 13 year olds, 12% of boys and 6% of girls had had at least one coital experience. Family life educators and practitioners lack strong research-based information about how to build resiliency in early adolescents that will result in delayed sexual activity, particularly among those living in rural areas. The purpose of the present project was to test a unique intervention aimed at building resiliency to delay sexual activity among early adolescent females in rural Appalachia.

Appalachian Families

Appalachian residents make up a truly marginalized portion of the U.S. population. Tripp-Reimer and Cardwell (1977) stated that, although Appalachia includes portions of 12 states, the subculture has been overlooked as an American ethnic minority because: (a) Appalachians have low visibility in American society, (b) Appalachians historically have not defined themselves as an ethnic or minority group, and (c) there is little Appalachian group identity because the unit of social organization is the family.

Often described differences between Appalachian and more mainstream U.S. culture include, in the former, a more complicated emancipation of youth (Peterson & Stivers, 1987), close living arrangements (Keefe, 1988), lack of geographic mobility (Keefe, 1988), dysfunctional coping strategies (Yelton & Nielson, 1991), and a presentoriented world view (Yelton & Nielson, 1991). These cultural differences point to the need for research on how to intervene to delay sexual activity among early adolescent females in Appalachia. Searches of all of the major social science on-line databases, and of the Appalachian collections at the libraries of the Universities of Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia, revealed that there was very little research on adolescent pregnancy prevention in Appalachia, which is the focus of the present study. There are no reported attempts to test specific curricula to delay early sexual activity or prevent adolescent pregnancy in Appalachia. The purpose of the present study was to develop and test such a curriculum in a year-long school-based intervention with early adolescent females in rural Tennessee.



The Preteen Enrichment (PE) project was a year-long (1992-1993) schoolbased intervention in which 126 11- and 12-year-old girls participated in a 1-hour weekly class led by PE instructors. …

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