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Variations in Outcomes Between Foster and Non-foster Youth Following Sex and Relationship Education



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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Ted G. Futris.

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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.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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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).

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  • Foster youth
  • Teen pregnancy prevention
  • Relationship education
  • Sex education
  • Programming