A report on HES Extension programs
serving Missouris families and communities
State Human Development Specialist Lynn
Blinn Pike gives instructions to students
at Kansas City Central High School
before they complete a survey probing
their experiences with alcohol and sex.
A University of Missouri Extension team is trying
to determine how to educate
young teenagers about the dangers of early sexual activity.
1996, MU Extension teamed up with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary
Education (DESE) to help acquaint the state's teachers with the Reducing the Risk (RTR)
curriculum on HIV and pregnancy prevention. Sixteen regional specialists statewide were
trained by DESE to assist teachers in implementing the 15-lesson program. Designed to
teach abstinence, refusal skills, delay tactics and protection, RTR has been implemented
in 12 schools across the state.
In the fall
of 1997, a team led by state Human Development Specialist Lynn Blinn Pike began the
process of finding out how effective the program is. With a
grant from the National Institute of Health-Office of Population Affairs, Pike and her
crew have begun a three-year study to evaluate RTR in Missouri.
|Developed and first implemented in
California, RTR is one of only five programs on HIV and teen pregnancy prevention to be
termed effective by the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. To
earn that designation, a program must demonstrate the capacity to delay the start of
sexual activity among teens, to reduce the number of partners, to increase the use of
birth control and protection or to decrease the pregnancy rate.
Although it is an educational program, RTR is anything but
conventional classroom fare. It's primarily role-play, Pike said. The
students love it. It's a different approach: It's skill-based, it doesn't give a lot of
facts, and there are few lectures.
Joseph Kenyatta helps Alma
High School students with the survey.
|RTR was last evaluated shortly after
its California debut in the early 1990s. Pike and her colleagues
are adding several different dimensions to their study. For example, the initial
evaluation took place over 18 months. Pike plans to study students over a 36-month period.
If you're working with ninth graders
who aren't sexually active yet, 18 months just isn't long enough to study pregnancy
trends, she said.
Her survey will chart the teens' attitudes and
sexual activity over three years. Unlike the original project, the Missouri study will
also compare responses of white subjects to those of black subjects and compare the
responses of urban and rural students.
Lynn Pike works with an Alma High School
student (top) and a Central High School
student (right) as they complete the questionnaire.
Pike's study will compare the responses of white
subjects to those of black subjects and also
compare the responses of urban and rural students.
|The team has done an initial survey of more than
1,100 students in the eighth, ninth and tenth grades across the state. Included were 520
who have received the RTR training and a comparison group of 614 who have not had the
|We want to see if RTR is working
and effective in Missouri, Pike said. We want to understand the behavior and
attitudes of young teens. That's why we chose to work with 8th graders, because they are
predominantly not yet sexually active. Two-thirds of our study group have not had sex, so
we can follow them through the process.
The list of 137 questions probes not only the students'
experiences with alcohol and sex but also the attitudes behind
their actions. It asks about pregnancy and HIV prevention education in schools as well as
the students' interaction with parents on the subject. And it puts the students in virtual
situations and asks for their probable reactions.
|Among the answers:
A low percentage cited religion
as a significant reason.
68 percent said they weren't ready.
75 percent were waiting for the right person,
50 percent for marriage.
81 percent were afraid of pregnancy
or sexually transmitted diseases.
Only 14 percent said their
friends think it's wrong.
19 percent said they'd be too
embarrassed to have sex.
Only 9 percent said they didn't know where
to get protection or birth control.
Only 13 percent said they'd be too
embarrassed to buy condoms in a store.
Only 6 percent said they couldn't
afford to buy protection.
|There's so much here that's really
interesting, she said. We ask those who have not had sex why they haven't. We
have a list of 20 questions about why.
troubling finding is that the adolescents in the survey don't feel comfortable talking to
their parents about these issues. Only 16 percent said they'd talked to their parents
about abstinence or about condoms. Another is that 16 percent said birth control pills
made other protection unnecessary.
For Pike, the most intriguing part of the study will be tracking the teens' changing attitudes. We've got
primarily eighth and ninth graders. Overwhelmingly, they say they can resist and abstain
from sexthat they can talk their partner out of itand they know how to use a
condom. It'll be interesting, as we follow these kids over three years, to see how their
attitudes and feelings change.
Until you've been in the situation, it's hard
Pike, left, works with her team as they prepare to survey students at Kansas City Central
High School. From left are Pike, Guriana Wittstruck, Kortett Mensa, and Joseph Kenyatta.
For more Information about
The Center on Adolescent Sexuality, Pregnancy and Parenting,
Missouri Volunteer Resource Mothers,
or other adolescent issues contact:
Dr. Lynn Blinn Pike, Director CASPP
162B Stanley Hall
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211
phone: (573) 882-3243
Fax: (573) 884=4878
or visit the CASPP website at: