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Sex and Relationship Education

Rapid Cycle Learning with HMRE Programs for Youth
This report describes the rapid cycle learning process and findings for the five youth-serving HMRE grantees that participated in SIMR. It shares how each grantee addressed implementation challenges and improved services through participation in SIMR and insights that can help other HMRE grantees strengthen their own service delivery. Another brief of five infographics provides practical tips for implementing motivation-driven case management as part of HMRE services (2023).

What’s the Plan? Cohabitation, Engagement, and Divorce
Using a new national sample of Americans who married for the first time in the years 2010 to 2019, researchers from the University of Denver examined the stability of these marriages as of 2022 based on whether or not, and when, people had lived together prior to marriage. Consistent with prior research, couples who cohabited before marriage were more likely to see their marriages end than those who did not cohabit before marriage (2023).

HHS Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Evidence Review Call for Studies
Deadline: June 12, 2023
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seeks studies to include in a systematic review of the evidence base on programs that impact teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV, and associated sexual risk behaviors (2023).

First Impressions Are Everything When It Comes to Dating
No pressure, but researchers from the University of California-Davis find first impressions matter big time in the dating world. Their study reveals that first impressions of both compatibility and popularity are very influential in shaping the people we choose to pursue as potential romantic partners (2022).

How Accurately Can We Predict Repeat Teen Pregnancy Based On Social Ecological Factors?
This study examined theoretically selected predictors of repeat teen pregnancy among 945 pregnant and parenting teens (M age = 17), most of whom were Hispanic/Latina (86%). Significant predictors of repeat pregnancy were the teen mother having a parent with a serious drinking or drug problem when she was a child, being older, not living with a mother figure, not intending to abstain from sex or use a long-acting reversible contraceptive, and having lower resiliency skills (2022).

Negative Marital Communications Leave Literal, Figurative Wounds
A tendency for one or both spouses to avoid or withdraw from tough conversations could set up married couples for emotional distress, bad feelings about their relationship, chronic inflammation and lowered immune function, new research suggests (2023).

Star-Cursed Lovers: Role of Popularity Information in Online Dating
A new study has found that if you’re perceived as more popular on a mobile dating app, there is a higher chance that other users will avoid connecting with you. This is one of the major findings of a study that sought to examine the effect of a dating app user’s popularity rating on their demand on the online dating platform (2019).

Youth Relationship Education: A Meta-Analysis
Recent focus on the developmental importance of adolescent romantic relationships led to the formation and implementation of curricula and programs that educate high school-aged youth about healthy romantic relationships. This meta-analytic study examines the efficacy of youth-focused relationship education (YRE) on multiple outcomes: conflict management, faulty relationship beliefs, and healthy relationship attitudes. Searches revealed 33 studies of YRE, however, meta-analytic procedures only included 15 studies which provided sufficient data on the outcomes of focus. Hedge’s g effect sizes were significant for two of the three outcomes and are comparable with effects of other prevention programs. Overall, YRE programs are effective in changing conflict management and faulty relationship beliefs (2017).

Relationship Education for Youth Who Have Faced Adversity
Offering extra support on developing healthy relationships is particularly important for youth who have faced interpersonal trauma and adversity; these experiences may place young people at increased risk for poor relational and other outcomes. This annotated bibliography provides practitioners and researchers with information to adapt, develop, and refine strategies for working with youth who have faced adversity (2021).

Helping Couples Achieve Relationship Success
This article reviews 34 rigorous evaluation studies of couple relationship education (CRE) programs from 2010 to 2019. Significant advances include reaching more diverse and disadvantaged target populations with positive intervention effects on a wider range of outcomes beyond relationship quality, including physical and mental health, coparenting, and even child well-being, and evidence that high-risk couples often benefit the most. Ongoing challenges include expanding our understanding of program moderators and change mechanisms, attending to emerging everyday issues facing couples (e.g., healthy breaking ups, long-distance relationships) and gaining increased institutional support for CRE (2021).

An Overview of Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education Curricula
Healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) programming—also called marriage and relationship education or relationship education programming— teaches concepts and skills that promote healthy, safe, and stable relationships among youth and adults. When designing and implementing an HMRE program, one of the most important decisions that program providers must make is to choose which curriculum to implement. (2020)

Research Synthesis on the Benefits of Delayed Sexual Activity for Adolescents
Explore findings from a research synthesis on how the timing of first sexual activity relates to such outcomes as teen pregnancy, relationships, mental health and emotional well-being, risky sexual activity, and substance use. (2020)

Are Relationship Education Programs for Lower-Income Individuals & Couples Working?
Over the past decade, more than 50 evaluation studies have examined the effectiveness of the Healthy Marriage and Relationships Education (HMRE) programs, including three ACF-funded, large-scale, multisite, random-assignment evaluations. Growing evidence shows that couples can learn to reduce destructive conflict and experience less physical and emotional abuse, and that these programs can improve couples’ positive communication skills, understanding, warmth, support, and co-parenting. (2019)

What Young People Say They Want Most In A Partner
What do humans really want in a long-term partner? If people were given a limited menu of characteristics from which to choose, what would be the non-negotiables? And how much of what we value in a partner is influenced by culture and how much is innate? In a nifty new report out of the University of Swansea in the U.K., researchers got 2,700 college students from five countries to progressively narrow down which characteristics were most important to them in a lifetime mate, and the one that emerged from all cultures was kindness. (2019)

Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?
To the relief of many parents, educators, and clergy members who care about the health and well-being of young people, teens are launching their sex lives later. From 1991 to 2017, the Centers for Disease Control finds, the percentage of high-school students who’d had intercourse dropped from 54 to 40 percent. (2018)

Fewer Teens are Having Sex as Declines in Risky Behavior Continue
A survey led by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention showed as steep decline of high-school-age teens who are having sex has dropped over the last two years. This trend includes younger students, African Americans and Hispanics. Adds evidence about ongoing reductions in risky teen behavior by teenagers who are becoming pregnant, smoking, drinking alcohol, and using marijuana. (2018)

3/4 of Young People Want Relationship Education in School to Help Them Understand How to Build Lasting Relationships as an Adult
The Centre for Social Justice and Family Stability Network in the UK commissioned an opinion poll of young people aged 14-17 in England to understand their iews on changes to the provision of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE).
RSE should reflect the ambitions of young people, not just the here and now.
Achieving a lasting relationship in adult life is just as important to young people as their career ambitions.

  • Despite growing up in the shadow of widespread family breakdown, achieving a lasting relationship as an adult is still important to older teenagers.
  • Young people want to get married as adults, RSE shouldn’t ignore marriage.
  • There is a long way to go in understanding why marriage matters.
  • Achieving their relationship goals is harder than ever for young people. (2018)

Increasing Youths’ Relationship Confidence with Relationship Education
Youth relationship education aims to build youths skills to form and sustain healthy romantic relationships. A new study provides more evidence that Relationship Education programs can be effective at helping youth develop more confidence in their abilities to form and sustain healthy relationships. (2018)


Finding the fluoride: Examining How and Why Developmental Relationships are the Active Ingredient in Interventions that Work
In 2012, Junlei Li and Megan Julian argued that a large factor in the success of at-risk youth interventions is the degree to which those interventions promote what authors called “developmental relationships.” They asserted that “developmental interventions produce desirable outcomes if and only if such interventions enhanced developmental relationships.” (2018)