Prevention in middle school matters. Middle school is a critical window of opportunity to teach kids about healthy relationships and prevent teen dating violence. Rather than repairing damage later on, communities can help equip young people with the skills they need to develop healthy relationships throughout their lives.
Prevention needs to be a priority. Parents, caregivers, teachers and others that support middle school youth can all help young teens navigate new dating relationships (both online and offline), by educating ourselves on the issues, and talking to middle schoolers about what is healthy and what is not.
Middle schoolers are just beginning to date and to explore what it is like to be in a relationship. And these first relationships set the stage for their future. Studies show that child abuse and early dating violence are both highly predictive of dating and domestic violence later on.
The findings of an evaluation conducted by RTI International on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Blue Shield of California Foundation, reveal that prevention does work and can have lasting effects.
The evaluation’s sample consisted of 1,517 students from eight schools at four waves: Wave 1 (fall 2010 of Grade 7); Wave 2 (spring 2011 of Grade 7); Wave 3 (fall 2011 of Grade 8), and Wave 4 (spring 2012 of Grade 8).
When measured against comparison schools, students after Waves 1 and 2 (short-term) reported:
- Less acceptance of teen dating violence
- More positive attitudes towards gender equality
- More parent-child communication about relationships
- More support and satisfaction in their romantic relationships
In the longer term, more than a full year later, students at Start Strong schools (as compared to those at comparison schools) still reported:
- Lower acceptance of teen dating violence
- Better attitudes towards gender equality