The Influence of an Abstinence-Only Intervention on the Risk Behaviors of Urban Middle-School Students

Alison J. Wakefield


In this dissertation, findings on the factors that influence risk-avoidance behaviors among Hispanic and African American middle-school students are presented. The findings were based on a randomized study in which middle-school students were randomly assigned to receive either an abstinence-only curriculum or a comprehensive health curriculum.

Initial findings suggest that middle-school students and their attitudes toward sexual activity were closely associated with their relationships with both their parents and peers. The pivotal indicator for student engagement research indicated that the higher the level of engagement between teen and parent, the more likely the teen is to follow the interventions. Should the parent reinforce the school’s intervention (i.e., abstinence-only programming) and show support for the child’s education, the more likely the student was to follow the intervention. Conversely, without engagement between parent and teen, school interventions are less likely to be effective. The key element appears to be a supportive home environment for teens to maintain abstinence in middle school.

Research outcomes will aid administrators and school personnel in policy decisions and programming for at-risk students. Research will add to the growing body of evidence, which suggests that abstinence-only interventions are effective within certain parameters but that challenges still exist.