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You-Me-Us: Results of a Cluster Randomized Trial of a Healthy Relationships Approach to Sexual Risk Reduction

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By middle adolescence, most young people have been involved in at least one romantic relationship, a context in which many sexual interactions occur. Indeed, researchers have suggested the importance of attending to relationships in programs focused on sexual risk, yet few evidence-based programs have a strong relationships focus. Our study examined the impact of a healthy relationship program called You-Me-Us that included a classroom curriculum and a school-wide peer norms approach. We evaluated the intervention using a small group randomized trial that included nine participating urban middle schools (defined as schools that include grades 6–8) in three urban school districts. We invited all 7th grade students within the study schools to enroll. Students completed three surveys during 7th and 8th grades (baseline plus two follow up surveys at 6 and 18 months following baseline). A total of 911 youth with positive consent and assent were enrolled in the study. Follow up survey response rates among those taking the baseline were 92% at 6 months and 80% at 18 months. Multilevel regression models were used to adjust for the correlation among students within the same school, and the correlation of repeated measurements taken on the same student over time. The intervention reduced vaginal sexual initiation by about half at the 6-month follow-up, and this approached significance. Further, youth in the intervention condition were less likely to believe it is okay for people their age to have vaginal sex without using condoms if the girl is on birth control. None of the remaining variables differed significantly by intervention condition. This study provides insights on using a healthy relationship approach for younger urban adolescents. This approach produced a programmatically significant reduction in sexual initiation that did not reach standard levels of statistical significance, and warrants further exploration.

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  1. We used study educators who were required to complete logs following each session they taught. The logs were available electronically and paper-based to facilitate completion. Educators also received regular reminders to complete the logs.


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This work was supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research (1R01NR011966). The authors gratefully acknowledge the contributions to this research by the educators and research staff members who helped ensure successful implementation. Additionally, we express our sincere appreciation to the district representatives, principals, teachers, school staff, and students who participated in the studies.

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Correspondence to Karin K. Coyle.

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Coyle, K.K., Anderson, P., Franks, H.M. et al. You-Me-Us: Results of a Cluster Randomized Trial of a Healthy Relationships Approach to Sexual Risk Reduction. J Primary Prevent 40, 607–629 (2019).

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