Observations of Adolescent Peer Resistance Skills Following a Classroom-Based Healthy Relationship Program: A Post-intervention Comparison
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This study examines peer resistance skills following a 21-lesson classroom-based intervention to build healthy relationships and decrease abusive and health-risk behaviors among adolescents. The Fourth R instructs students in positive relationship skills, such as negotiation and delay, for navigating challenging peer and dating scenarios. Observational data from 196 grade 9 students participating in a larger cluster randomized controlled trial were used to evaluate post-intervention acquisition of peer resistance skills. Pairs of students engaged in a role play paradigm with older student actors, where they were subjected to increasing pressure to comply with peer requests related to drugs and alcohol, bullying, and sexual behavior. Specific and global measures of change in peer resistance responses were obtained from two independent sets of observers, blinded to condition. Specific peer resistance responses (negotiation, delay, yielding to pressure, refusal, and compliance) were coded by research assistants; global peer resistance responses were rated by teachers from other schools (thinking / inquiry, application, communication, and perceived efficacy). Students who received the intervention were more likely to demonstrate negotiation skills and less likely to yield to negative pressure relative to controls. Intervention students were also more likely to use delay than controls; control girls were more likely to use refusal responses; the number of times students complied with peer requests did not differ. Teacher ratings demonstrated significant main effects favoring intervention youth on all measures. Program and research implications are highlighted.
KeywordsAdolescent relationships Observational data Behavioral skills Adolescent risk behavior School-based prevention Dating violence Substance use Safe sex
This research was funded in part by a grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). We recognize RBC Financial Group for their support of the Chair in Children’s Mental Health (D. Wolfe), and the Royal Lepage Shelter Foundation for their generous support for violence prevention efforts with adolescents.
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