After a 3-year evaluation, Wellesley Center for Women research confirms the program is effective; Get Real helps young teens delay sex with classroom learning and parental involvement
BOSTON – Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, Wellesley Centers for Women, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and ETR announced new findings published in the Journal of School Health that show Planned Parenthood’s middle-school curriculum, Get Real: Comprehensive Sex Education That Works, helps kids wait until they are older to have sex. It is particularly effective for boys.
“We are extremely proud the research shows our Get Real curriculum works,” said Jen Slonaker, Vice President of Education and Training at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. “Among students who received Get Real, 16% fewer boys and 15% fewer girls had sex compared to their peers who did not take Get Real.”
Get Real is a middle school program for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders that delivers accurate, age-appropriate information and emphasizes healthy relationship skills and family involvement over the course of 27 classroom lessons and corresponding take-home activities. To date, over 150 schools in Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Texas have selected Get Real. The curriculum’s strong emphasis on family involvement make the release of the findings timely, as October is “Let’s Talk Month,” a national effort aimed at encouraging parents and their children to talk with one another about sex, sexuality, and relationships.
“Over 90% of parents support having sex education in both middle and high school,” said Leslie Kantor, Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “We also know parents can make a real difference in their teen’s lives by talking early and talking often about sex. The Get Real findings add to a growing body of evidence that family communication is critical to young people's decision-making and health, and that it's important that communication begins before a teen becomes sexually active and continues throughout adolescence.”
Sumru Erkut, Ph.D. and Jennifer Grossman, Ph.D., scholars at the Wellesley Centers for Women, led a research team in the design, data collection and analysis for the multi-year evaluation that produced these results.
Get Real is one of only a few middle school programs that reduces risky sexual behavior for BOTH boys and girls. These findings are particularly impressive because Get Real was tested among young people at high risk for early sexual intercourse.
For boys in particular, family involvement showed an added effect on delaying sex. Boys who completed the Get Real take-home activities in 6th grade were more likely to delay sex in the 8th grade than boys who did not complete these activities, highlighting the importance of parents and sons talking earlier and more frequently about sex.
“To understand this finding, we can look to research on how parents talk with their daughters and sons about sex—parents tend to talk earlier and more frequently with their daughters than their sons,” says Jennifer Grossman, Ph.D., Research Scientist at Wellesley Centers for Women and lead author of the recently published paper describing the Get Real evaluation findings. “It may be that the 6th grade family activities encouraged parents to begin discussing sexual issues with their sons earlier and more often than they would have otherwise, which could be the critical factor for delaying sex.”
“Our goal is to give students accurate information, help them to develop healthy communication skills, and promote family communication, all of the key ingredients needed to form healthy relationships, delay sex, and protect their own health,” Slonaker continued. “The Get Real program is meeting that goal and we’re excited to bring it to more schools and communities around the country.”
Lisa Goldblatt Grace, a parent of three children and social worker who has worked with vulnerable adolescents for over twenty years, said, “The Get Real curriculum is powerful for teens and their families in a very important way: It provides young people the truth about what is happening in their bodies, what it means, and how to understand both sex and sexuality.” She applauded the curriculum for the emphasis it places on engaging parents. “On different nights, my kids would come home with “homework”—to ask me about my own experiences, to ask me what I believe, to discuss with me case scenarios that were germane to their realities. Get Real makes it a little less awkward and a lot easier to have those important conversations. Get Real means parents are able to make real headway in helping young teens learn to navigate the road ahead."
Get Real: Comprehensive Sex Education That Works is a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum designed for middle school-aged youth. The curriculum was written and developed by Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM). PPLM provides schools with a curriculum package that includes teacher training and support as well as family activities.
The curriculum spans three years, with nine lessons per year for grades 6, 7, and 8. The program provides medically-accurate, age-appropriate information on sex and sexuality. Topics include biology, abstinence and delaying sex, protection methods including the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, and skill-building around healthy communication. Get Real utilizes the theory of planned behavior along with a social-emotional learning approach, incorporating opportunities to learn and practice communication and relationship skills so that students can learn to make responsible decisions and maintain healthy relationships.
In 2008, PPLM partnered PPLM partnered with the Wellesley Centers for Women on a rigorous three-year impact evaluation of the curriculum. The evaluation used a randomized experimental design to assess the effectiveness of Get Real and included 24 middle schools in the greater Boston area. The 24 schools were randomly assigned to either utilize Get Real or continue their regular practice of sexuality education.
Students in both groups – those who received Get Real and those who did not – were given a confidential survey at the beginning of 6thgrade to obtain a baseline measurement of their knowledge, attitudes and beliefs. Follow up surveys at the beginning of 7th, 8th, and 9thgrade were conducted to establish whether Get Real had an impact on students delaying sex.
Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts is the largest freestanding reproductive health care provider and advocate in the Commonwealth, providing sexual and reproductive health care to more than 30,000 patients per year. Ninety percent of PPLM services are preventive, including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, testing and treatment for STDs, breast health services, Pap tests, sexual health education and information. For 85 years, PPLM has protected and promoted sexual and reproductive health and rights through clinical services, education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.pplm.org.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With approximately 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood
The Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) at Wellesley College is one of the largest academic, gender-focused research-and-action institutes in the world, with the mission to advance gender equality, social justice and human wellbeing. For 40 years, scholars at WCW have helped shape a better world for women and girls, families and communities through their innovative research, theory, and action. For more information, visit www.wcwonline.org.
ETR (Education, Training and Research) is a nonprofit organization committed to advancing science, reducing risk and improving lives. ETR supports the work of health, education and social service providers through high-quality research, publications, programs and training. ETR is a leading producer of coordinated school health curricula, evidence-based interventions and other resources that empower students in grades K–12 with the information and skills to make positive health choices. For more information, visit www.etr.org.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America media office: 212-261-4433
October 20, 2014