Academic journal article Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice

Evaluating the Outcomes of Parent-Child Family Life Education

Academic journal article Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice

Evaluating the Outcomes of Parent-Child Family Life Education

Article excerpt

Conducted in diverse sociocultural communities in Los Angeles County, the project implemented and evaluated a family life education program designed to prevent the negative outcomes of risky sexual behavior. A sample of 251 male and female early adolescents 9 through 14 years of age participated with their parents in this abstinence-based adolescent pregnancy prevention program. The project sought to improve parent-child communications and delay the onset of sex-related behaviors through direct involvement of parents in the education process. Naturally occurring community groups were randomly assigned by site to treatment or delayed treatment conditions in a longitudinal quasi-experimental evaluation design. The evaluation demonstrated significant improvements in communication between parents and children immediately following the intervention; however, these improvements were no longer present 12 months postintervention. The process and outcome evaluation methods employed in the study triangulated qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis procedures. This combination provided other sources of data than the traditional outcome measures used in most evaluation studies, thus addressing some of the gaps in present program evaluations. Descriptions of the process evaluation, integrated with the outcome data, are intended to heighten nurses' awareness of the importance of this component of research and the rich qualitative data it may yield. The qualitative process components in the project captured the experience of the investigators when they encountered many of the complex challenges that confront researchers who implement and evaluate family life education programs among early adolescents. This experience provided the basis for suggested strategies that nurse clinicians and researchers can use in their work with early adolescents and their parents in clinical-, school-, and community-based settings.

Recent trends indicate that youths initiate sexual activity and other risky behaviors at progressively younger ages (Alan Guttmacher Institute [AGI], 1994; DiClemente, Hansen, & Ponton, 1996; Hayes, 1987; Moore & Sugland, 1997). Younger age also correlates with increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes that are independent of confounding sociodemographic factors (Fraser, Brockert, & Ward, 1995; Leland, Petersen, Braddock, & Alexander, 1995; Satin et al., 1994). While the overall rate of unintended pregnancy among women 15-44 years of age dropped 16% between 1987 and 1994, the rate of decline for young women (15-19) was only 10% (Henshaw, 1998). Recent declines in the birth (Ventura, Martin, Curtin, & Mathews, 1997) and unintended pregnancy rates (AGI, 1998) among teens provide encouraging news; however, the battle is not over.

Most pregnancy prevention programs target adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 in grades 8 through 12, when many young people have already begun to engage in risky behaviors that endanger their health and put them at risk for adolescent pregnancy (Koniak-Griffin & Brecht, 1997; Stevens-Simon & McAnarney, 1996). Few age relevant intervention programs address the early adolescent age group and few research projects have focused on the family life education needs of this developmental group. Rossi (1997) recommends that prevention programs begin between the ages of 8 and 14, preferably at the younger ages on the continuum, in order to maximize the opportunity of reaching early adolescents when they are more susceptible to parental and trustworthy adult influence.

The abstinence-based adolescent family life (AFL) demonstration project reported in this paper implemented and evaluated a primary pregnancy prevention intervention designed for early adolescents through 14 years of age and their parents. The project addressed two primary AFL education program gaps by targeting (a) early adolescents, and (b) parents as well as children. The curriculum, Reaching Adolescents and Parents (RAP), was designed by the American Red Cross for 5th to 7th grades to facilitate parent-child communication while the majority of children are still developmentally engaged more with their family group than their peer group. …

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