Healthy Relationships
Violence Prevention Curriculum
by Andrew Safer of Men For Change
August, 1997

Following is a summary of the Manitoba Research Centre on Family Violence and Violence Against Women's report of preliminary findings at the end of year one of the three-year evaluation of Healthy Relationships. Three questions were asked of the experimental and control groups at the pre-test and post-test to gauge how well they had learned the content of the curriculum:
  1. Did students learn that intimidation and swearing at another person were abuse?
  2. Did they know that women were not responsible for the abuse they suffered?
  3. Did they know that a violent fight did not "clear the air", and was likely to happen again?
The most significant change occurred among the Grade 7 students who started out by answering only one question correctly, on average. "Those in the intervention group improved significantly at the post test, while those in the control group stayed the same," reads the report.

In a dating violence scenario, Tony is verbally abusive to Krista, and he tries to control what she wears when they go out. Students were asked to choose the best response for Krista to make in this situation: assertively telling Tony how she feels when he behaves that way, aggressively telling him to stop being such a jerk, and passively complying with his demands.

In all three Grades, the assertive response was most popular at both the pre-test and the post-test. However, it was those who had chosen the aggressive response who were significantly affected by the curriculum. "If they had received the Healthy Relationships program, 27% of the boys and 36% of the girls who chose the aggressive response on the pre-test went on to choose the assertive response on the post-test. Girls in the program group were as likely as boys to start out choosing the aggressive response, but were more likely than boys were to change. In the control group, not one of the participants went from an aggressive response to an assertive response."

To gauge whether or not the program influenced students to take action about dating violence, Grade 7 and Grade 9 students were asked to choose from five different responses to describe what they would do if they were at a party and a boy grabbed his girlfriend's arm to prevent her from leaving. Whereas boys in the control group were not inclined to take any action, those in the program group were much more inclined to take action. The most common response was to talk to the abusive boy at a later time.

The evaluation is also measuring whether or not students at each Grade level have gained confidence in their ability to do specific skills that had been taught in the program. "Grade 8 students showed the strongest effect of the program on efficacy," the report reads. "Boys and girls who received the intervention, but especially the boys, increased their confidence significantly from pre-test to post-test. This appears to have been due to the two items about being able to identify stereotypes and hidden messages in magazine advertisements. Grade 9 students in the program group increased their confidence that they could tell when their personal boundaries were being crossed."

With regard to changes in attitudes, "There were significant changes in attitudes toward dating violence among the Grade 9 students who received the Healthy Relationships program. Both boys and girls in this group became less tolerant of girls' physical and sexual violence toward a dating partner." The researchers explain this surprising finding as follows: "Focus of the attitude changes upon the female violence scales among the program groups more likely reflects the starting points for these attitudes compared to attitudes toward male violence. Both boys and girls expressed significantly more disapproval for boys' violence than for girls' violence."

It should be noted that some of the attempts to measure changes in attitude yielded inconclusive results in instances where the students achieved high scores on the pre-test, leaving not much room for improvement on the post-test.


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