The goal of this 3 year Fast-Track STTR is to develop and evaluate a multi-level (youth, parent, school) Internet-based dating violence (DV) prevention program, ?Me & You-Tech? (MYT) for 6th--grade middle school students. By 6th grade, approximately 50% of students will have engaged in a dating relationship. Of these, almost one-third will have perpetrated physical DV and almost two-thirds will have perpetrated emotional DV. Youth exposed to DV are more likely to perform poorly in school, experience difficulties in future relationships, participate in adult violence, and experience depression, suicidal ideation, bullying, substance use, and risky sexual behavior. Many U.S. states are required by law to provide DV education. However, youth exposure to DV education, in particular, effective programs, is minimal and the few programs available are confronted with challenges of school-based barriers to fidelity, training, and resources. The study comprises 2 phases and 10 specific aims: Phase 1: Develop the theoretically- and empirically- based MYT prototype and test feasibility (Mos.1-12). Phase 1 Specific Aims: 1.1 Conduct a content analysis of existing Me & You and SSS intervention matrices to identify required core content, methods, and strategies for MYT design (youth-, parent-, and school-level components); 1.2 Conduct review of MYT concepts and wireframes to test acceptability and perceived feasibility for use in the context of the school by School, Youth, and Parent Advisory Groups to inform MYT design (youth, parent-, and school-level components); 1.3 Develop MYT design documents and develop the prototype including alpha testing; 1.4 Test usability of MYT prototype; 1.5 Evaluate (pilot-test) the MYT prototype for feasibility and perceived value in school and home settings and review with distribution collaborator (ETR Inc.) for optimal specifications for dissemination; 1.6 Disseminate Phase 1 findings (Phase 1 report and peer reviewed publications). Phase 2: Develop MYT informed from Phase 1 and conduct a RCT to evaluate impact of MYT (Mos. 13-36). Phase 2 Specific Aims: 2.1 Revise MYT design documents (based on Phase 1 data) and obtain advisory group sign-off; 2.2 Develop the full theoretically- and empirically-based MYT program; 2.3 Test full MYT program functionality and content (alpha test), and usability; 2.4 Conduct a RCT of MYT 6th- grade students (n=300) in 4 Houston middle schools; 2.5 Review MYT distribution plans with collaborator ETR Inc.; 2.6 Disseminate Phase 2 findings of Phase 2 report and peer reviewed publications. The 3 primary hypotheses are: Compared to those not receiving MYT, youth who access MYT will demonstrate significantly: 1. Reduced DV (emotional, physical, or sexual) perpetration; 2. Reduced DV (emotional, physical, or sexual) victimization; and 3. Improved psychosocial determinants related to healthy/unhealthy dating relationships (e.g., knowledge, skills, self-efficacy, attitudes and norms, gender role beliefs, perceived parental and school factors). MYT addresses a call for innovative theory-based programs that use a social-ecological approach to DV, involving youth, their family, and their school while leveraging internet-based channels to optimize program fidelity and minimizing training, resources, and costs that limit adoption and scale-up in school settings. This project is founded on previous RCTs by this experienced collaborative investigative team on developing and testing successful middle school multi-component interventions. Me & You?Building Healthy Relationships (Me & You), a DV curriculum comprising classroom and computer-based lessons for youth, parental-child home-based activities, and school staff trainings, resulted in reduced DV perpetration and positive psychosocial outcomes related to norms towards violence, attitudes towards sexting, conflict resolution skills. The Secret of Seven Stones (SSS), an Internet-based pregnancy prevention game for parents and youth resulted in enhanced parent-youth communication regarding healthy relationships through text-based behavioral cues. Based on this strong empirical precedent, a completely Internet-based version of Me & You is proposed that leverages the strengths of these school- and home-based approaches.
The specific aims of this study are to: MYT is significant because it addresses an important public health challenge to build youth skills for respectful dating relationships void of violence, to train school staff in providing supportive and protective environments to achieve this, and to enhance parent-youth discussion to reinforce the importance of healthy relationships. MYT is innovative because it will provide evidence in using an integrated multi-component socio-ecological approach to enhancing healthy relationships that uses a scalable technology-based channel to overcome the barriers of fidelity, resources, and cost of dissemination in school settings and provides a scalable solution to what is a dearth of readily disseminated evidence-based TDV programs and will provide.
Victimization and perpetration of teen dating violence (physical-, emotional-, sexual-, and cyber-related) represents a public health challenge, especially considering that almost one-third of 6th graders will have perpetrated physical DV and almost two-thirds will have perpetrated emotional DV. Annual costs of intimate partner violence are estimated at $9 billion after adjustment for inflation. This study will contribute to our understanding of using a coordinated online program that trains youth, their parents, and their school staff in strategies to lower teen dating violence behaviors and to encourage a family- and school-based culture of zero tolerance for dating violence behaviors.