The Safe Dates Project: theoretical basis, evaluation design, and selected baseline findings.
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Approximately 20% of adolescents have experienced violence from a dating partner. The Safe Dates Project tests the effects of a program on the primary and secondary prevention of dating violence among adolescents living in a rural North Carolina county. The program being evaluated aims to prevent dating violence by changing dating violence norms, gender stereotyping, conflict-management skills, help-seeking, and cognitive factors associated with help-seeking. School activities include a theater production, a 10-session curriculum, and a poster contest. Community activities include special services for adolescents in violent relationships and community service provider training. A pretest-posttest experimental design with random allocation of 14 schools to treatment condition was used to test study hypotheses. Data were collected in schools using self-administered questionnaires. Eighty-one percent (n = 1,967) of the eighth- and ninth-graders in the county completed baseline questionnaires, and 91% of those adolescents completed follow-up questionnaires. The sample is 75.9% Caucasian and 50.4% female. Baseline data indicate that 25.4% and 8.0% of this sample have been victims of nonsexual and sexual dating violence, respectively, and 14.0% and 2.0% have been perpetrators of nonsexual and sexual dating violence, respectively. Consistent with other adolescent dating violence studies, both boys and girls report being victims and perpetrators of dating violence. Control and treatment groups are similar at baseline on all demographic, mediating, and outcome variables. Findings suggest that dating violence is prevalent among adolescents and that prevention programs are warranted.
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