This study assessed the initial feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of an intervention aimed at reducing dating violence and sexual risk behavior in a sample of adolescent girls (ages 14–17) with prior exposure to physical dating violence (DV). One hundred and nine girls were randomly assigned to Date SMART (Skills to Manage Aggression in Relationships for Teens) or a Knowledge-only (KO) comparison group. Both intervention arms consisted of six, weekly 2-h sessions and one “booster” session 6 weeks later. Based on principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, the Date SMART intervention was designed to target common underlying skills deficits linked to both DV and sexual risk behavior in adolescent females: depression, self-regulation deficits, and interpersonal skills deficits. Assessments were administered at four time points (baseline, 3, 6, and 9 months). The Date SMART group was effective as reducing sexual DV involvement across the 9-month follow-up period. Both groups evidenced clinically meaningful reductions in physical, emotional, and digital DV involvement, total time in dating relationships, as well as reductions in depression. Findings indicate that delivering a DV and sexual risk prevention intervention to DV-affected adolescent girls is feasible and well-received. Furthermore, a skills-based approach that addresses the co-occurrence of DV and sexual risk behavior may be particularly useful for promoting reductions of sexual DV among high-risk adolescent girls. A future, large-scale trial with an inactive comparison condition is needed to evaluate the efficacy of Date SMART further.
Prevention Dating violence Sexually transmitted infection HIV Adolescents
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This research was supported by a grant (K23MH086328) awarded to Christie J. Rizzo, Ph.D.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All data collection procedures were carried out with approval from, and in compliance with, the Lifespan IRB at Rhode Island Hospital.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual study participants.
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