What we're asking in youth risk

Can a mentoring program aimed at developing social and emotional skills improve educational outcomes?

Literature suggests that there is a window of opportunity to prevent the consequences of disengagement for students who may be on the path towards school dropout, by developing targeted interventions that focus on the transitions into middle and high school. PRG is conducting several studies to examine the efficacy of school transition and mentoring programs that aim to improve academic outcomes, social and emotional skills, and school connectedness.

Peer Group Connection – High School (PGC-HS)

PRG is conducting an individual-level RCT with 9th grade students in rural North Carolina schools. PGC is a high school transition and cross-age peer mentoring program that aims to improve academic outcomes, social and emotional skills, and school connectedness. The sample is fully enrolled and consists of 1,532 students.

Peer Group Connection – Middle School (PGC-MS)

PRG is conducting an individual-level RCT with 6th grade students in New Jersey, Maryland and rural North Carolina middle schools. PGC-MS is a middle school transition and cross-age peer mentoring program that aims to improve academic outcomes, social and emotional skills, and school connectedness. The sample is fully enrolled and consists of 1,530 students.

Achievement Mentoring (AM)

PRG will investigate the efficacy of AM, a one-to-one adult mentoring intervention for 10th and 11th graders identified as high-risk for dropping out of school. The project will serve high-need students in up to 20 high schools in low-income communities in rural North Carolina and urban districts on the East Coast. PRG will conduct an experimental study to measure impacts on social-emotional learning, educational mindsets, and student engagement. PRG aims to enroll approximately 800 students into the study, beginning in September 2020.

Impact on Antecedents of Student Dropout in a Cross-Age Peer Mentoring Program

PRG will present at the SREE (Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness) spring 2020 conference as part of a symposium entitled Unpacking the Logic Model: A Discussion of Mediators and Antecedents of Educational Outcomes from the Investing in Innovation (i3) program.

PRG researchers will present findings that suggest that a cross-age peer mentoring program, Peer Group Connection – High School (PGC-HS), has the potential to mitigate negative outcomes associated with the transition into high school by increasing students’ school engagement and expectations for the future during their ninth-grade year and, when implemented with high fidelity, reducing the likelihood students receive disciplinary referrals and suspensions. Results also suggest the program may not being working as hypothesized with regards to other targeted behavioral and attitudinal antecedents. From a practical standpoint, research such as this is of import to both program developers and educators. For the PGC-HS program developers, these findings on the mechanisms of behavior or behavior change targeted by the program provide validation about how the program is working and whether it is achieving its goals. In areas where the program does not seem to be “moving the needle,” developers plan to utilize the above information in conjunction with results gleaned from the implementation study to revisit the curriculum to better understand program theory and make adaptations to the program that will improve overall performance. Likewise, educators can use information gathered from this type of exploratory research to target their finite resources toward programs that solve a particular area of concern for their school and their students’ needs. They can utilize results to justify implementing, sustaining, and/or expanding a particular program; they can also make decisions about whether they should implement complementary intervention(s) to address unmet needs. 

Funded through an Investing in Innovation (i3) development grant, The Peer Connection Study investigates the impact of PGC-HS on student outcomes related to dropout prevention. The study is an RCT with a sample of 1,533 9th grade students in rural North Carolina.

Do innovative approaches to teen pregnancy prevention reduce high-risk sexual behaviors in youth?

Teen pregnancy is associated with serious negative maternal health and educational outcomes, including greater risk for pregnancy complications and decreased likelihood of obtaining higher education. Children of teen mothers are at an even higher likelihood of adverse consequences, including cognitive and developmental delays. Despite considerable declines in the last three decades, the U.S. maintains higher teen pregnancy and birth rates than other western industrialized nations. Within the U.S., birth rates for non-Hispanic white teens are significantly lower than rates reported for other races and ethnicities. It is therefore critical to address persistent social inequities and identify evidence-based interventions that can effectively contribute to the reduction of risky sexual behaviors for all U.S. adolescents, with an eye towards reducing the overall incidence of teen pregnancy.

Jenner, E., Jenner, L. W., Walsh, S., Demby, H., Gregory, A., & Davis, E. (2016). Impact of an intervention designed to reduce sexual health risk behaviors of African American adolescents: Results of a randomized controlled trialAmerican Journal of Public Health106(S1), S78-S84.

+Full article

Jenner, E., & Walsh, S. (2016). Adolescent pregnancy prevention programs and research: A time to revisit theory. American Journal of Public Health, 106(S1), S28-S29.

 +Full article

Davis, E., Demby, H., Jenner, L. W., Gregory, A., & Broussard, M. (2016). Adapting an evidence-based model to retain adolescent study participants in longitudinal researchEvaluation and Program Planning54, 102-111.

+Full article

Walsh, S., Jenner, E., Leger, R., & Broussard, M. (2015). Effects of a sexual risk reduction program for African-American adolescents on social cognitive antecedents of behavior changeAmerican Journal of Health Behavior39(5), 610-622.

+Full article

Demby, H., Gregory, A., Broussard, M., Dickherber, J., Atkins, S., & Jenner, L. W. (2014). Implementation lessons: The importance of assessing organizational “fit” and external factors when implementing evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programsJournal of Adolescent Health54(3), S37-S44.

+Full article

Becoming a Responsible Teen (BART)

PRG conducted an individual-level RCT with 850 youth participating in a summer job training program through the city of New Orleans. BART is a group-based intervention consisting of eight 2-hour sessions.

+Final report

Safer Sex

PRG conducted an individual-level RCT with 319 young women, ages 14-19, who were visiting a reproductive health clinic in New Orleans. Safer Sex is a one-on-one intervention implemented by a trained health educator that includes an initial and three follow-up sessions.

+Final report

Peer Group Connection (PGC)

PRG is conducting an individual-level RCT with 9th grade students in rural North Carolina schools and urban New York City schools. PGC is a high school transition and cross-age peer mentoring program that aims to improve goal setting and minimize risky behaviors such as unprotected sexual activity. The sample is fully enrolled and consists of 1,523 students.

+Evaluation abstract

Plan A 

PRG is conducting an individual-level RCT with 1,770 1819 year old Hispanic and African American women who are seeking services at Planned Parenthood clinics in central California. Plan A is a 20-minute video based in entertainment education theory.

+Evaluation abstract

Practice Self-Regulation (PS-R) 

PRG is conducting an individual-level RCT with youth who are receiving individual outpatient counseling services in California, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, and Louisiana. PS-R is a manualized therapy intervention that is trauma-focused and implemented one-on-one over ten sessions by a trained therapist. A total of 432 study participants are enrolled; enrollment is ongoing.

+Evaluation abstract

Electronic Practice Self-Regulation (e-PS-R)

PRG is conducting an individual-level RCT with juvenile justice-involved youth in West Virginia and New Mexico. e-PS-R is a therapeutic program that combines online and face-to-face instruction for youth ages 1419 who have experienced trauma. A total of 291 are enrolled; enrollment is ongoing.

Please contact us for a full copy of any presentation.
Qaragholi, N., Demby, H., Schladale, J. (2019). “Mastering the Art of Partnering to Enhance Successful Outcomes in Adolescent Health Studies.” Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Grantee Conference. Jun 25-28; New Orleans, LA.
Demby, H., Jenner, L. (2018). “Structuring RCT Partnerships: Exploring Contrasts in Researcher-Practitioner Roles and Responsibilities when Implementing RCTs in Real-World Settings.” American Evaluation Association; Oct 31- Nov 3. Cleveland, OH.
Qaragholi, N., Demby, H., Jenner, L. (2018). “Implementing an RCT in the Juvenile Justice System: Experiences in Rural New Mexico and West Virginia.” American Evaluation Association; Oct 31- Nov 3. Cleveland, OH.
Falk, G., Aguilar, J., Demby, H., Jenner, L. (2017). “Evaluating a Non-Clinical Intervention in a Clinical Setting: Lessons Learned at Reproductive Health Centers.” American Evaluation Association; Nov 6-11. Washington, D.C.
Hall, S., Lucero, D., McFarlane, J., Gregory, A., Demby, H., Jenner, L. (2017). “Increasing RCT Enrollment in a Mental Health Setting.” American Evaluation Association; Nov 6-11. Washington, D.C.
Qaragholi, N., Demby, H., Jenner, L. (2017). “Lessons Learned: Maximizing Communication in a Juvenile Justice-Based RCT.” American Evaluation Association; Nov 6-11. Washington, D.C.
Smith, T., Barr, S., Burgess, K., Foley, E., Demby, H., Jenner, L. (2017). “Recruitment Lessons Learned in a School-Based RCT.” American Evaluation Association; Nov 6-11. Washington, D.C.
Jenner, E., Walsh, S., Jenner, L., Demby, H., Gregory, A., Davis, E., Leger, R., Broussard, M., Dickherber, J. (2015). “Evaluation of Becoming a Responsible Teen (BART): Findings from a Randomized Controlled Trial.” APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition; Oct 31-Nov 4; Chicago, IL

Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT)

PRG uses the most rigorous study design available to researchers – the randomized controlled trial (RCT) – to evaluate the efficacy of a number of innovative teen pregnancy prevention programs on adolescent sexual behavior. The RCT design is considered to be the strongest approach for evaluating the causal impact of a treatment on an outcome because of its ability to create groups that are equivalent on both observed and unobserved factors. The RCT has the potential to minimize selection bias and, when implemented well, produce findings that can conclusively determine whether an intervention leads to a particular outcome.

PRG has conducted or is conducting a total of ten RCTs to date, including six assessing teen pregnancy prevention (TPP) interventions. Two of these studies were completed in 2015 and produced results which indicated the TPP programs being evaluated were not efficacious in reducing risky adolescent sexual behaviors. The remaining four TPP studies will be completed over the course of the next several years, with a goal to produce findings that will identify effective programs, mechanisms that consistently improve education and health outcomes, and interventions that are not impactful as intended.