The health education program It’s Your Game… Keep it Real (IYG) can significantly reduce dating violence behaviors among minority youth, a researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston found.
In a context where 10 percent of high school youth are victims of physical dating violence and where other studies suggest that more than 20 percent are victims of emotional dating violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, the UTHealth team wanted to examine whether IYG reduced violence among ethnic-minority middle school youths, a population considered at risk for dating violence.
Designed to delay sexual behavior and promote healthy dating relationships, IYG is a classroom- and computer-based program for middle school youth, promoted at the UTHealth School of Public Health.
The study, recently published in the American Journal of Public Health, analyzed 766 predominantly African American and Hispanic students from 10 middle schools in southeast Texas, and looked at four areas of dating violence: physical victimization, emotional victimization, physical perpetration, and emotional perpetration.
Results showed that control students had significant higher odds of physical dating violence victimization, emotional dating violence victimization, and emotional dating violence perpetration than did intervention students.
The odds of physical dating violence perpetration, on the other hand, were not significantly different between the two groups, which is due to the fact that IYG did not contain as much content related to managing emotions and coping, said Dr. Melissa Peskin, lead author of the study and assistant professor of health promotion and behavioral sciences at the UTHealth School of Public Health, in a press release. According to her, a new version of the program that includes information and skills training on these topics is currently being tested in schools.
Furthermore, the program’s effectiveness varied by gender and race/ethnicity.
Although further study is warranted to determine if IYG should be widely disseminated to prevent dating violence, these findings led the team to conclude that IYG significantly reduced 3 of 4 dating violence outcomes among ethnic-minority middle school youths.
“The foundation of looking at adolescent sexual health is helping young people understand what healthy relationships look like,” said Peskin. “Unfortunately, most schools do not implement” school-based programs that are effective in reducing adolescent dating violence behavior, such as IYG.
The lessons include identifying the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships, skills training for evaluating relationships, strategies for reducing peer pressure, obtaining social support, setting personal limits and respecting others’ limits.