Performance Improvement 2008. How Effective is a Supplemental Life Skills Education Component Aimed at Increasing Sexual Abstinence?


This study examined the long-term effects of one of three main components of the Heritage Keepers® school-based abstinence education program: the Life Skills Education component. This component was a voluntary, character-based program designed to enhance a mandatory core abstinence education component of the Heritage Keepers® Program which served middle and high school youth in Edgefield, South Carolina. All youth participating in Life Skills Education had also participated in a core Abstinence Education Component and may have participated in a Community Education Component. Therefore, the study investigated the incremental impact of the Life Skills Education Component on youth already exposed to the other components of the Heritage Keepers® Program. The study did not examine the impact of the full Heritage Keepers® Program. The study was based on a final follow-up survey conducted with 604 youth, 18 to 55 months after they began participating in the study, in three separate cohorts.

The Life Skills Education Component had little or no impact on sexual abstinence or activity. Youth in the Life Skills abstinence education group and control abstinence education group reported similar rates of sexual abstinence, numbers of sexual partners, and ages at first sex. Youth in the Life Skills abstinence education group were also no more likely than their counterparts in the control abstinence education group to have engaged in unprotected sex (sex without a condom). The Life Skills Education Component did affect certain potential mediators of teen sex, most notably expectations to abstain and views supportive of abstinence. The component also had some impact on knowledge of the risks associated with teen sex. These impacts were driven almost entirely by youth in the 2003 middle school cohort––the youngest cohort at the time of the final follow-up survey and the cohort that had most recently enrolled in the component.  Youth in this cohort averaged less than 14 years of age by the time of the final follow-up survey and were, therefore, excluded from the analyses of impacts on behavior.

Report Title: Impact of the Heritage Keepers® Life Skills Education Component,
Agency Sponsor:
ASPE-OHSP, Office of Human Services Policy
Federal Contact:
Lisa Trivits, 202-205-5750
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

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