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  Youth Learn Alternatives to Violence
Final Results of Three-Year Evaluation


A three-year longitudinal study in seven Winnipeg junior high schools has documented the effectiveness of Healthy Relationships: A Violence-Prevention Curriculum by Men For Change of Halifax. Sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Teen Dating Violence Study was carried out by the University of Manitoba. Between 1996 and 1999, 1,143 Grade 7, 8, and 9 students participated in the study including 433 students in the third and final year which ended in June, 1999.

Dating Relationships Among Students

Approximately two-thirds of the Grade 7-9 students had begun dating. In the last year, students reported that they had begun dating two years earlier than students had reported in the previous two years. Students reported that their dating relationships include: psychological abuse and verbal aggression (64%); passive-aggressive tactics such as lying and refusing to speak (80%); and physical violence (39%)—most commonly shoving, kicking, grabbing, etc. but also punching choking, etc.; and injuries (14%).

What Students Learned

Assertiveness
Students in all grades were asked to choose a response to a verbal conflict situation. In every grade, students were significantly more likely to change from an aggressive response (in the pre-test) to an assertive response after participating in Healthy Relationships. By contrast, the control group became significantly more likely to choose the aggressive response.

Recognizing Abuse
Program students were more likely to recognize that swearing and intimidation are forms of abuse, whereas the control group students did not make this correlation.

Emotional Intelligence
Grade 7 program students were significantly less likely to blame the victim for a verbally abusive situation, and were significantly more likely to recognize that other emotions usually underlie anger. They also identified more emotions besides anger in a scenario involving verbal abuse, and they (particularly the girls) gave significantly increased importance ratings to nonverbal cues (such as posture and facial expressions) as sources of information regarding emotions.

Media Literacy
In years 2 and 3, Grade 8 program students increased their knowledge about television violence regarding realism and effects on behaviour, and increased their awareness of advertisers' techniques to influence teenagers (including use of gender stereotypes). However, the control group students scored higher on questions linking statements about gender stereotypes to relationships.

Relationship Violence
For the second year in a row, Grade 9 program students' factual knowledge about relationship violence increased significantly, and their understanding of the nature of jealousy in relationships also improved.

Self-Efficacy
Grade 8 program students showed marked gains in self-confidence with regard to their ability to identify stereotypes and hidden messages in magazine ads (in year 1), and to recognize peer pressure to conform to stereotypes and to resist peer pressure (in year 2). These gains were not however repeated in year 3.

Grade 9 program students showed significant improvement in self-confidence in year 3 as they had in year 2. In year 3 girls accounted for most increases in self-confidence, particularly for recognizing personal boundaries, recognizing when personal boundaries have been crossed, recognizing the difference between "power with" and "power over" others, and recognizing the effects of stereotypes on behaviour.

Self-Esteem
For the second year in a row, program students showed significant increases in their overall level of self-esteem. In year 2, the increase occurred for boys and girls; in year 3 it was only found in girls, especially in the area of academic self-esteem.

Disapproval of Violence
From the beginning of the study, students were disapproving of boys' dating violence, and the curriculum helped to bring down the tolerance of girls' violence as well. In year 1, Grade 9 program students showed significantly less acceptance of girls' physical and sexual violence (after having been more accepting of this behaviour in the pre-test). In year 2 no attitude changes were found. In year 3, students in all three grades were less approving of girls' physical and sexual violence, but this was almost entirely reflected in changes in girls' attitudes.

Dissatisfaction With Abusive Relationships
The effect of the Healthy Relationships program in all three years was to strengthen students' dissatisfaction with abusive relationships—more so for boys in year 1 and for girls in year 2. Friendships were more affected by this trend than were dating relationships. Program group students were almost twice as likely to break up with a violent dating partner than were control group students.

Decrease in Violent Behaviour
In year 3, program group students reported significantly lower incidences of physical violence and passive-aggressive tactics after completing the program—moreso with girls than with boys. In year 2 this effect was found only with girls. Program group girls reported decreased psychological abuse and fewer injuries in their relationships after completing the program, compared to before. There was no behaviour change in year 1, consistent with the researchers' expectation that behaviour would only be influenced in the longer term.

Conclusion
"Although it is still very early in the analysis of our results, we feel confident that the Healthy Relationships program has had a positive effect on students who participated in the program. The most evident effect was on their knowledge of the specific content that was covered in each grade. Students' confidence in their ability to perform the skills taught in the curriculum also improved. Students consistently became less satisfied with friendships and dating relationships that were abusive in any way, and more likely to leave abusive dating relationships. These effects occurred for both boys and girls who participated in the program. We think that the results would have been even stronger and more far-reaching if we had delivered the entire curriculum within each grade, rather than the small selection of activities that were chosen for the research program. Possibly, results would have been stronger for boys if our research team had included men as well as women."

Wendy L. Josephson, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of Winnipeg & Jocelyn Proulx, Ph. D., Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba.

Report by Wendy L. Josephson, PhD, Principal Investigator, and Jocelyn Proulx, PhD: Healthy Relationships Project: Results From Year Three


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How to purchase Healthy Relationships Curriculum

You can reach the developers and publishers of Healthy Relationships Curriculum through any of the following means:
Phone: (902) 457-4351
Fax: (902) 457-4597
E-mail: hrc@m4c.ns.ca

We look forward to hearing from you.



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