NORC at the University of Chicago is evaluating a CDC initiative to help urban communities prevent teen dating violence (TDV). On September 13th, 2011, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded grants to four communities (Baltimore, Ft. Lauderdale, Chicago, and Oakland/Hayward) for its new teen dating violence prevention initiative, Dating Matters®: Strategies to Promote Healthy Teen Relationships.
Dating Matters® is a comprehensive program that aims to both promote respectful, nonviolent dating relationships and decrease emotional, physical, and sexual dating violence among youth, 11-14 years old, in high-risk urban communities. It includes multiple preventive strategies intended to influence teens, parents/caregivers, schools and neighborhoods/communities. The participation of schools serves as a cornerstone of the comprehensive approach that defines Dating Matters. Schools play critical roles, often in partnership with local health departments and community organizations, in being able to reach significant numbers of youth and parents in communities while also serving as important resources for the community as a whole.
CDC is seeking to build health departments’ capacity to become key agents for dating violence prevention programming though the implementation of the Dating Matters® violence prevention strategies, which include school-based programs for middle school students, parent programs, educator training, a communications campaign, and policy change. The evaluation examines the effectiveness of the Dating Matters® program — working with local health departments to lead their communities in implementing a comprehensive public health approach — to prevent teen dating violence before it starts. The evaluation is a clustered randomized control trial (RCT) design to assess intervention outcomes such as student knowledge and attitudes toward TDV, and behavioral measures (victimization and perpetration). NORC is collecting data through four years of longitudinal middle school student surveys, middle school administrative data on disciplinary incidents and school climate, parent/caregiver surveys, middle school educator and interventionist surveys, program monitoring/attendance/fidelity data, student and implementer focus groups, cost data on program implementation, and community indicator data. NORC is further collecting similar survey data on participating students beyond middle school and through high school, whether the students remain in high school or have dropped out of school. The project help CDC evaluate the cost, feasibility, sustainability, and effectiveness of a comprehensive approach to prevent teen dating violence in four high-risk urban communities.
NORC will enroll a total of six middle school cohorts (students, parents, educators) in the evaluation study over the period 2012 to 2017. Beyond middle school, NORC is following the participating youth cohorts through 2018. In middle schools, student surveys are conducted in classroom settings twice during the academic year, whereas high school age participants are surveyed once annually following a multi-mode protocol. Middle school educators are surveyed anonymously once a year and middle school parents are surveyed twice per year. In 2014, NORC is conducting a student non-attrition bias study and a parent nonresponse bias study in addition to regular data collections. Middle school student participants and program implementers are also recruited in each of the four project sites to participate in focus group discussions about teen dating violence and components of the Dating Matters® initiative.