Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships

Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships

Teen dating violence and abuse is a major public health problem in this country. In addition to undermining young people’s individual growth and academic potential, dating violence and abuse puts young people at risk for long-term health consequences, serious injury and even death. Prevention needs to be a public health priority. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 10 high school students report experiencing physical dating violence.

Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships (Start Strong) was a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in collaboration with Blue Shield of California Foundation (BSCF) and Futures Without Violence. From 2008 to 2012, RWJF and BSCF invested $18 million in 11 Start Strong sites across the country to promote healthy relationships among 11- to 14-year-olds and identify promising strategies to prevent teen dating violence (TDV).  

It was one of the largest initiatives ever funded targeting middle school students to promote healthy relationships and prevent dating violence.

Program/Initiative

Futures Without Violence

The Presidio
100 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA, 94129-4331

415-252-8900
Website

Laura J. Hogan
Program Director

530-231-5577
Email

Esta G. Soler
Program Director

415-678-5500
Email

Debbie Lee
Deputy Director

415-252-8900
Email

Kristin Schubert, Team Director and Senior Program Officer

Kristin Schubert, team director and senior program officer

"We knew we'd have to start much earlier to help younger people understand what it means to have a healthy relationship, and give them the tools and awareness to avoid the tragic and life-changing experience of relationship violence. Our focus is on middle school-aged students, and Start Strong strategically works with the community around those students—parents, teachers, coaches, mentors and teen leaders—to reinforce better norms around healthy relationships."

—Kristin Schubert, team director and senior program officer.

Research and Evaluations

2013 Evaluation Summary

Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships Evaluation Summary

RWJF commissioned the independent research firm, RTI International to evaluate Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships. The Start Strong evaluation is one of the few, and largest, studies to take an in-depth look at healthy relationship development and TDV prevention efforts involving middle school students. The evaluation suggests that continued and strengthened emphasis on improving student attitudes toward gender equality and challenging the acceptance of teen dating violence might ultimately reduce dating violence behaviors among the Start Strong middle school students. Also, changing attitudes and behaviors is an important first step in transforming social norms about dating violence.

Read the report

Key Findings

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  • Start Strong had a sustained positive impact on middle-school students’ attitudes towards teen dating violence and gender equality, two key factors linked to the prevention of TDV.
  • By fall 2012, six of the 11 Start Strong communities achieved significant policy wins. As a direct result of their work, five sites secured important changes to TDV-related school district policies. Sites also provided technical assistance and awareness-building to inform changes to state legislation. State legislation was strengthened in three states.
  • In addition, all 11 sites established one or more practice changes that remained in place in the school year after the completion of Start Strong funding. Practice changes included TDV education, staff training and parent education.

2011 Baseline Findings

Prevention in Middle School Matters

A study of 1,430 7th grade students reveals that many 7th-graders are dating and experiencing physical, psychological and electronic dating violence. RTI International (RTI) conducted the study and this report covers the first wave or baseline data collected in fall 2010 from students in Start Strong schools and comparison schools. This survey is part of a larger evaluation to assess the overall impact of the program Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships.

Read the report

Key Findings

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  • More than 1 in 3 (37%) students surveyed report being a victim of psychological dating violence in the last 6 months.
  • Nearly 1 in 6 (15%) students surveyed report being a victim of physical dating violence in the last 6 months.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) students surveyed report being a victim of electronic dating aggression in the last 6 months.

Lessons Learned: Why Middle School Matters

Resource for Preventing Teen Dating Violence

A new interactive online tool kit shares best practices from Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships—the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s national program working to prevent teen dating violence and promote healthy relationships among middle school-aged youth. The site is a resource for building healthy relationships and preventing teen dating violence in communities.

View the tool kit

Videos

Start Strong

  • Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships
  • Teens Speak Out
  • New Ways to Talk About Healthy Relationships

View All

RWJF Staff

Jennifer M. Ng'andu

Program Officer

Susan D. Promislo

Communications Officer

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