The evaluation addresses three important questions:
- What are the nature and underlying theories of the abstinence education programs?
- What are the implementation and operational experiences of local communities and schools that have received abstinence education funding? and
- What are the impacts of abstinence education programs on the attitudes and intentions of youth to remain abstinent, on their sexual activity, and on their risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
The first stage of the evaluation entailed selecting programs for study. The evaluation team first visited and observed numerous abstinence education programs across the nation. Eleven of these, representing a range of program models and serving different target populations, were then selected for in-depth analysis. Five of the 11 are referred to as “targeted” programs: they target services to specific, identifiable groups of youth. The remaining six are community-wide, systemic-change initiatives, which use the abstinence education funding to increase public awareness of the problems of teen sexual activity, to change community norms and attitudes, to encourage stronger parent-child communications, and to engage youth in abstinence education and support services.
The evaluation includes an extensive implementation and process analysis and an impact analysis. The implementation and process analysis uses program documents, program observations, focus groups with program participants and parents, and interviews with program staff and community leaders to document and understand the abstinence education programs implemented in the 11 sites. The impact analysis uses longitudinal survey data for groups of youth randomly assigned to program and control groups in the 5 targeted program sites. Enrollment in the impact evaluation study samples spanned three school years and was just completed in fall 2001. Therefore, the follow-up data that are necessary for the impact analysis are not available for inclusion in this report.