Adolescent AIDS prevention in context: the impact of peer educator qualities and classroom environments on intervention efficacy

Am J Community Psychol. 1997 Jun;25(3):289-323. doi: 10.1023/a:1024624610117.


Peer-led, school-based interventions show promise for preventing AIDS among adolescents, but little is known about the processes underlying effective peer education or the conditions that promote its efficacy. This study examined the implementation in one school of an effective, peer-led AIDS prevention program for inner-city 7th-grade participants (n = 123) and identified the qualities of peer educators (n = 15) and classroom environments (n = 5) that contributed to improvement in participants' postintervention AIDS-related attitudes. The Peer Educator Rating Scale was developed to assess two dimensions of participants' perceptions of peer educators: "positive regard" and "perceived similarity." Participants reported greater positive regard for more highly individuated and less shy peer educators, and participants' positive regard for peer educators in turn was associated with lowered AIDS risk as measured by perceptions of peer norms regarding sexual activity and self-efficacy for peer communication regarding sexual topics and condoms. Participants' perceived similarity was not associated with any postintervention improvements in AIDS-related knowledge and attitudes. Participants' classroom membership was associated with improvements in all 5 knowledge and attitude scales, and exploratory classroom-level findings indicated that classroom intervention environments perceived as more organized by participants showed slightly greater overall improvements across AIDS-related knowledge and attitudes scales. Consistent with individual-level findings regarding participants' positive regard for peer educators, the two classrooms with the greatest positive regard for their peer educator teams showed the most student improvement. Implications for further research and the design of future prevention and promotion programs for adolescents are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peer Group*
  • Sexual Behavior