Teen pregnancy is associated with increased risk of school dropout, employment challenges and long-term poverty; these risks are exacerbated for foster youth who are at elevated risk for teen pregnancy. Sex education and relationship education can facilitate the development of attitudes and skills associated with behaviors that reduce risky sexual behaviors. However, research on sex education with foster youth is limited as is research exploring the potential benefits of combining relationship education with sex education.
This study examines variations in the experiences and outcomes of non-foster youth (n = 160) and foster youth (n = 165) who participated in a federally funded teen pregnancy prevention program that included both relationship and sex education.
Path analysis models examined the relationship between several exogenous variables (i.e., youth characteristics, pre-program risky sexual behavior, program experience) and three endogenous variables (i.e., post-program perceived change in intercourse, condom use, and contraceptive use intentions). Multi-group analyses were used with foster youth status as a moderator to determine if the model was invariant by foster youth status.
Although foster youth entered programming with elevated rates of risky sexual behavior, both groups reported positive program experiences and safer sexual behavior intentions post-programming.
Regardless of their elevated rates of risky sexual behavior prior to receiving programming, foster youth, like non-foster youth, may benefit from both relationship and sex education. For foster youth specifically, their positive program experience and reduced intentions to engage in risky sexual behaviors is an encouraging finding that contrasts with existing literature.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Adler-Baeder, F., Kerpelman, J. L., Schramm, D. G., Higginbotham, B., & Paulk, A. (2007). The impact of relationship education on adolescents of diverse backgrounds. Family Relations, 56(3), 291–303. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2007.00460.x.
Ahrens, K. R., Spencer, R., Bonnar, M., Coatney, A., & Hall, T. (2016). Qualitative evaluation of historical and relational factors influencing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection risks in foster youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 61, 245–252. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.12.027.
Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179–211. https://doi.org/10.1016/0749-5978(91)90020-T.
Arbuckle, J. L. (2013). AMOS (Version 22.0) [Computer Program]. Chicago: SPSS.
Augsberger, A. (2014). Strategies for engaging foster care youth in permanency planning family team conferences. Children and Youth Services Review, 43, 51–57. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.04.015.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Byrne, B. M. (2004). Testing for multigroup invariance using AMOS graphics: A road less traveled. Structural Equation Modeling, 11(2), 272–300. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15328007sem1102_8.
Canton-Cortes, D., Cortes, M., & Canton, J. (2012). The role of traumagenic dynamics on the psychological adjustment of survivors of child sexual abuse. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 9(6), 665–680. https://doi.org/10.1080/17405629.2012.660789.
Carmines, E., & McIver, J. (1981). Analyzing models with unobserved variables: Analysis of covariance structures. In G. Bohrnstedt & E. Borgatta (Eds.), Social measurement: Current issues (pp. 61–73). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2006). Youth risk behavior surveillance United States, 2005. Surveillance Summaries. In: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 55(SS-5).
Child Trends. (2018). Foster care. Retrieved December 26, 2018, from http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=foster-care.
Chin, H. B., Sipe, T. A., Elder, R., Mercer, S. L., Chattopadhyay, S. K., Jacob, V., et al. (2012). The effectiveness of group-based comprehensive risk-reduction and abstinence education interventions to prevent or reduce the risk of adolescent pregnancy, human immunodeficiency virus, and sexually transmitted infections: Two systematic reviews for the guide to community preventive services. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 42(3), 272–294. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2011.11.006.
Cronin, J., Heflin, C., & Price, A. (2014). Teaching teens about sex: A fidelity assessment model for making proud choices. Evaluation and Program Planning, 46, 94–102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2014.05.010.
Duppong Hurley, K., Trout, A., Wheaton, N., Buddenberg, L., Howard, B., & Weigel, M. (2013). The voices of youth in out-of-home care regarding developing healthy dating relationships. Child and Youth Services, 34(1), 23–36. https://doi.org/10.1080/0145935x.2013.766057.
Dworsky, A., & Courtney, M. E. (2010). The risk of teenage pregnancy among transitioning foster youth: Implications for extending state care beyond age 18. Children and Youth Services Review, 32(10), 1351–1356. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2010.06.002.
Enders, C. K. (2001). The performance of the full information maximum likelihood estimator in multiple regression models with missing data. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 61(5), 713–740. https://doi.org/10.1177/00131640121971482.
Espada, J. P., Morales, A., Guillén-Riquelme, A., Ballester, R., & Orgilés, M. (2016). Predicting condom use in adolescents: A test of three socio-cognitive models using a structural equation modeling approach. BMC Public Health, 16(35), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-016-2702-0.
Farineau, H. M., Stevenson Wojciak, A., & Mcwey, L. M. (2013). You matter to me: Important relationships and self-esteem of adolescents in foster care. Child and Family Social Work, 18(2), 129–138. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.13652206.2011.00808.x.
Garrido, E. F., & Taussig, H. N. (2013). Do parenting practices and prosocial peers moderate the association between intimate partner violence exposure and teen dating violence? Psychology of Violence, 3, 354–366. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0034036.
Heinze, H. J., Jozefowicz, D. H., & Toro, P. A. (2010). Taking the youth perspective: Assessment of program characteristics that promote positive development in homeless and at-risk youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 1365–1372. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2010.06.004.
Hu, L. T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6(1), 1–55.
James, S., Montgomery, S. B., Leslie, L. K., & Zhang, J. (2009). Sexual risk behaviors among youth in the child welfare system. Children and Youth Services Review, 31(9), 990–1000. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2009.04.014.
Kerpelman, J. L., Pittman, J. F., Adler-Baeder, F., Eryigit, S., & Paulk, A. (2009). Evaluation of a statewide youth focused relationships education curriculum. Journal of Adolescence, 32, 1359–1370. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2009.04.006.
Kirby, D. B. (2008). The impact of abstinence and comprehensive sex and STD/HIV education programs on adolescent sexual behavior. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 5(3), 18–27. https://doi.org/10.1525/srsp.2008.5.3.18.
Kost, K., & Henshaw, S. (2014). U.S. Teenage pregnancies, births and abortions, 2010: National trends by age, race and ethnicity. New York: Guttmacher Institute. Retrieved August 4, 2016, from https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/ustptrends10.pdf.
Love, L. T., McIntosh, J., Rosst, M., & Tertzakian, K. (2005). Fostering hope: Preventing teen pregnancy among youth in foster care. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
Ma, Y., Pittman, J. F., Kerpelman, J. L., & Adler-Baeder, F. (2014). Relationship education and classroom climate impact on adolescents’ standards for partners/relationships. Family Relations, 63(4), 453–468. https://doi.org/10.1111/fare.12084.
Morrison, S. U., Adler-Baeder, F., Bub, K. L., & Duke, A. (2018). Contextualizing relationship education and adolescent attitude toward sexual behavior: Considering class climate. Child & Youth Care Forum, 47(1), 133–150. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-017-9423-0.
Oman, R. F., Vesely, S. K., Green, J., Clements-Nolle, K., & Lu, M. (2018). Adolescent pregnancy prevention among youths living in group care homes: A cluster randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Public Health, 107(S1), S38–S44. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2017.304126.
Pearson, M. (2007). LoveU2: Relationship smarts plus. Berkely, CA: The Dibble Fund for Marriage Education.
Poobalan, A. S., Pitchforth, E., Imamura, M., Tucker, J. S., Philip, K., Spratt, J., et al. (2009). Characteristics of effective interventions in improving young people’s sexual health: A review of reviews. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 9(3), 319–336. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681810903059185.
Pound, P., Denford, S., Shucksmith, J., Tanton, C., Johnson, A. M., Owen, J., et al. (2017). What is best practice in sex and relationship education? A synthesis of evidence, including stakeholders’ views”. British Medical Journal Open, 7(5), e014791. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2016-014791.
Ramseyer Winter, V., Brandon-Friedman, R. A., & Ely, G. E. (2016). Sexual health behaviors and outcomes among current and former foster youth: A review of the literature. Children and Youth Services Review, 64, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2016.02.023.
Rew, L., Fouladi, R., Land, L., & Wong, Y. (2007). Outcomes of a brief sexual health intervention for homeless youth. Journal of Health Psychology, 12(5), 818–832. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105307080617.
Rosenbaum, P. R., & Rubin, D. B. (1985). Constructing a control group using multivariate matched sampling methods that incorporate the propensity score. The American Statistician, 39(1), 33–38. https://doi.org/10.1080/00031305.1985.10479383.
Ryan, S., Manlove, J., & Franzetta, K. (2003). The first time: characteristics of teens’ first sexual relationships (Issue Brief 2003-16). Retrieved August 4, 2016, from http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2003/08/First-Time.pdf.
Schramm, D. G., & Gomez-Scott, J. (2012). Merging relationship education and child abuse prevention knowledge: An evaluation of effectiveness with adolescents. Marriage and Family Review, 48, 792–808. https://doi.org/10.1080/01494929.2012.714722.
Smoak, N. D., Scott-Sheldon, L. A., Johnson, B. T., & Carey, M. P. (2006). Sexual risk reduction interventions do not inadvertently increase the overall frequency of sexual behavior: A meta-analysis of 174 studies with 116,735 participants. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome., 41(3), 374–384. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.qai.0000185575.36591.fc.
Solórzano, L., & Glassgold, S. (2010). Powerful youth: Determining successful participation in an HIV support group for youth. Social Work with Groups, 33(4), 288–303. https://doi.org/10.1080/01609511003587051.
Szanto, L., Lyons, J. S., & Kisiel, C. (2012). Childhood trauma experience and the expression of problematic sexual behavior in children and adolescents in state custody. Residential Treatment for Children and Youth, 29(3), 231–249. https://doi.org/10.1080/0886571X.2012.702519.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. (2013). Counting it up: The public costs of teen childbearing: Key data. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Widman, L., Noar, S. M., Choukas-Bradley, S., & Francis, D. B. (2014). Adolescent sexual health communication and condom use: A meta-analysis. Health Psychology, 33(10), 1113–1124. https://doi.org/10.1037/hea0000112.
Wolfe, D. A., Wekerle, C., Scott, K., Straatman, A., Grasley, C., & Reitzel-Jaffe, D. (2003). Dating violence prevention with at-risk youth: A controlled outcome evaluation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71(2), 279–291. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.71.2.279.
Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., & Helfand, M. (2008). Ten years of longitudinal research on US adolescent sexual behavior: Developmental correlates of sexual intercourse, and the importance of age, gender and ethnic background. Developmental Review, 28, 153–224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2007.06.001.
The authors would like to thank Dr. Sheryl Gowen, and her team at Georgia State University, who served as the independent evaluator for this project. We also appreciate the assistance provided by Mrs. Barbara Walters, at the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, for her support accessing the data. Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau, Grant: 1401GAPREP. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Futris, T.G., O’Neal, C.W., Dockter, T. et al. Variations in Outcomes Between Foster and Non-foster Youth Following Sex and Relationship Education. Child Youth Care Forum 48, 377–403 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-018-9484-8
- Foster youth
- Teen pregnancy prevention
- Relationship education
- Sex education