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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
programs involved the kinds of experiences and settings outlined in Chapter 4 as critical for promoting positive youth development. Teaching life skills and providing better adult social supports were common across all of the effective programs. Consequently, these programs are also good models for what can be done to promote positive development as well. Most actually gathered data relevant to this goal (see Table 6–1 for details) and were effective at promoting some aspects of positive development as well.
Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs
Kirby (1998) reviewed evaluations of primary prevention programs designed to reduce sexual risk-taking and teen pregnancy. These programs met the following criteria: published in 1980 or later; experimental or quasi-experimental in design; a minimum sample size of 100 in combined experimental and control groups; targeted 12- to 18-year-olds; conducted in the United States or Canada; and measures of program impact on sexual or contraceptive behavior or pregnancy or birth rates.
Kirby divided programs into three groups based on whether they focused primarily on sexual antecedents (i.e., age, gender, pubertal timing), on nonsexual antecedents (i.e., poverty, parental education, parental support, drug and alcohol use), or on a combination of sexual and nonsexual antecedents. We focused on the latter two groups because of their fit with our youth development framework. Youth development programs were further categorized as service-learning, vocational education and employment, and other. All three categories focused on improving education and life options as the means to reduce pregnancy and birth rates.
Service-learning programs consisted of unpaid service time in the community as well as structured time for training, preparation, and reflection. The results for such programs were equivocal. On one hand, Teen Outreach Program participants reported lower rates of pregnancy and school failure than the controls during the school year in which they participated in the program intervention. Similarly, a health education curriculum combined with service learning was effective at reducing reported sexual activity. On the other hand, although a quasi-experimental evaluation of service-learning programs showed a short-term trend in reduced pregnancy rates, the result was not statistically significant and the trend disappeared one year later.
Vocational education and employment programs included academic