Participating in a youth development intervention could make all the difference to a teenager’s sexual wellbeing. This is according to the results of a randomised controlled trial, which found that teenage girls at increased risk of pregnancy reported more regular use of condoms, oral contraception, or both after attending in such an intervention.
For the study, which was published online by JAMA Paediatrics, over 250 sexually active teenage girls participated the Prime Time youth development intervention. The Prime Time intervention is designed for American primary care medical centres, to improve the sexual health of girls who are at increased risk of getting pregnant. Research presented last year at the American Public Health Association’s 140th Annual Meeting, showed that low literacy rates in pre-teen girls significantly predict child-bearing among adolescents in the US.
Six months after the intervention was completed, Renee E Sieving, RN, PhD, FSAHM, of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and colleagues observed sexual risk behaviours and outcomes with a two-year follow-up questionnaire. By teaming up with case managers and intervention components, including youth leadership, the main aim of the study was to encourage change in certain psychosocial attributes associated with sexual risk behaviours and other behavioural wellness outcomes. 93.3% of the 253 sexually active girls between 13 and 17 years of age who met the specified risk criteria completed the 24-month survey.
The researchers reported, ‘Findings suggest that health services grounded in a youth development framework can lead to long-term reductions in sexual risk among vulnerable youth.’ At the 24-month follow-up, compared to the control group, the girls in the intervention group reported ‘significantly more consistent’ use of condoms, hormonal contraception, dual-method contraception (using both hormonal contraception and condoms). These girls also demonstrated improvements in family connectedness and self-confidence to say no to unwanted sex, as well as reductions in the perceived significance of having sex.
‘Together with previous findings demonstrating reductions in sexual risk behaviours, relational aggression and violence victimisation among Prime Time participants, results from this study suggest that involvement in a youth development intervention that combines individualised case management and youth leadership components holds great promise for preventing multiple risk behaviours among youth most vulnerable to poor health outcomes, including early pregnancy,’ the researchers concluded.