Context: The quality of parent-child communications about sex and sexuality appears to be a strong determinant of adolescents' sexual behavior. Evaluations of interventions aimed at improving such communications can help identify strategies for preventing early onset of sexual behavior.
Methods: A school-based abstinence-only curriculum was implemented among 351 middle school students, who were randomly assigned to receive either the classroom instruction alone or the classroom instruction enhanced by five homework assignments designed to be completed by the students and their parents. An experimental design involving pretest and posttest surveys was used to assess the relative efficacy of the curriculum delivered with and without the parent-child homework assignments.
Results: In analyses of covariance controlling for baseline scores, immediately after the intervention, adolescents who received the enhanced curriculum reported greater self-efficacy for refusing high-risk behaviors than did those who received the classroom instruction only (mean scores, 16.8 vs. 15.8). They also reported less intention to have sex before finishing high school (0.4 vs. 0.5), and more frequent parent-child communications about prevention (1.6 vs. 1.0) and sexual consequences (1.6 vs. 1.1). In all significant comparisons, the direction of the findings favored adolescents who received the enhanced curriculum. Dose-response relationships supported the findings.
Conclusions: Parent-child homework assignments designed to reinforce and support school-based prevention curricula can have an immediate impact on several key determinants of sexual behavior among middle school adolescents.