The evaluation draws on a rich longitudinal data set that includes multiple measures of attitudes and other possible mediators of youth behavior as well as of their behavioral outcomes. These data not only allow the analysis of program impacts over time, but also enable us to examine the pathways through which programs might have affected behaviors.
The logic model for the evaluation, presented in Chapter I and reproduced below (Figure VI.1), presents the pathways through which program effects were hypothesized to occur. Programs aimed to alter the level and nature of services youth received in ways that would influence potential mediators of teen sexual activity. Examples of these potential mediators include youth views toward abstinence, their relations with peers, and their perceived consequences of teen sex. The first year impact report examined program impacts on receipt of services (Box C) as well as on several potential mediators (Box D). The earlier chapters of this report estimate program impacts on long-term behavioral outcomes (Box E). This chapter focuses on the potential links between selected mediators (Box D) and teen sexual behavior (Box E).
The relationships between mediators and sexual abstinence are estimated using a multiple regression model. The outcome of interest whether youth have remained abstinent (measured at the time of the final follow-up survey) is regressed against a set of covariates that measure several potential mediators of abstinence. These mediators are based on data from an initial follow-up survey, conducted six to nine months after youth enrolled in the study. Findings from the regression thus provide an estimate of whether a potential mediator of behavior, such as relations with peers, does in fact predict whether youth have abstained from sex three to five years later (the period between the initial and final follow-up surveys).
The analysis focuses on five groups of potential mediators, all measured from the initial follow-up survey data. They include (1) youth views toward abstinence, sex, and marriage; (2) peer influences and relations; (3) self-concept, refusal skills, and communication with parents; (4) perceived consequences of teen sex; and (5) pledging to abstain from sex. Ideally, the analysis would be expanded to include the other potential mediators of teen sex shown in Figure VI.1, such as knowledge of STD and pregnancy risks. However, measures of these potential mediators were not collected from the initial follow-up survey.