Experiences in Youth Relationship Education for Adoptive and Nonadoptive Youth in Alabama
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
Human Development and Family Science
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While recent studies have explored effects of youth relationship education (YRE) (e.g., Adler-Baeder et al., 2007; McElwain et al., 2017; Simpson et al., 2018; Huntington et al., 2021), and differences between subgroups of participants, this is the first study to date to explore YRE experiences based on adoption status. This study expanded previous research by comparing adoptive and nonadoptive groups demographics and baseline differences in dating violence victimization and perpetration, interpersonal competence, family harmony, and mental health. In addition, this study explored the association between adoption status and the amount of change in these outcomes post-program (controlling for baseline levels) and also considered differences between proportions of adoptive and nonadoptive youth in unhealthy relationships who terminate relationships after a relationship education program. The current study included a full analytic sample of 1,877 adolescents who participated in a YRE program in Alabama; a match sample was created for examining the influence of adoption status on outcomes and included 150 nonadoptive youth and 50 adoptive youth. Results indicated that adoptive and nonadoptive groups were similar demographically, with the exception of some differences in gender proportions. Findings also indicated that adoptive youth reported more frequent experiences of dating violence victimization and perpetration in their romantic relationships, on average, at baseline. Otherwise, groups reported similarly in regard to their mental health, interpersonal competence, and family harmony at baseline. Further, adoption status predicted two key post-program outcomes: dating violence victimization and interpersonal competence. Being adopted was associated with greater increases in reported dating violence victimization post-program; over time, however, there was not significant change in dating violence victimization for either group. In addition, results indicated being nonadoptive was related to greater increases of interpersonal competence; the nonadoptive group also displayed significant improvement from pre- to post-program in interpersonal competence, however, the adoptive group did not. Adoption status did not predict changes in dating violence perpetration, family harmony, and mental health post-program, indicating similar changes between the two groups. Lastly, proportionately, more adoptive youth, terminated an emotionally unhealthy or abusive relationship after participating in the YRE program. No differences were found, however, between the adoptive and nonadoptive groups in relationship termination for relationships that were “just not working” and for physically unhealthy or abusive relationships. Overall, this study informs YRE curriculum development, facilitator skills and trainings, strategies and resources that need to be available to youth, and a trauma-informed approach to facilitation of YRE.