Results of this evaluation set the foundation for future work on the prevention of dating violence among middle school students,” said Shari Miller, PhD, child clinical and research psychologist at RTI International.
Prevention in Middle School Matters
While there is a growing body of knowledge on teen dating violence among older adolescents in high school, a better understand of this young age group is needed. 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.
“Looking forward, we’re eager to expand the success of Start Strong by continuing to focus on the importance of healthy relationship education and middle-school age youth, and sharing the lessons learned across the field,” said Esta Soler, president and founder, Futures Without Violence, National Program Office for Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships.
Start Strong is sharing experiences with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is targeting at-risk students in middle school in their new Dating Matters initiative. BSCF is maintaining Start Strong in the California sites, and many Start Strong schools in other locations will continue to focus on middle school prevention efforts. In addition, grantee organizations are continuing the program in different capacities. For example, the Boston Public Health Commission held their 4th annual Break Up Summit with teens this summer, a signature piece of their Start Strong program.
“An investment in early prevention strategies like Start Strong is an investment in the future of our families and communities,” said Peter Long, PhD, president & CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation. “In fact, a recent public poll found that an overwhelming majority of Californians think we should be educating kids about healthy relationships in middle school to prevent domestic abuse later in life. This not only reinforces the Start Strong model, it shows us that we are implementing the right ideas and approaches to ultimately break the cycle of violence.”
For more information and the evaluation summary report, visit www.rwjf.org/startstrongevaluation.