Community-based outreach programs were not successful at decreasing sexual violence (SV) or adolescent relationship abuse (ARA) among boys and young men. These findings, from an unblinded randomized clinical trial, were published in JAMA Network Open.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh recruited middle and high school-aged boys from 20 neighborhoods with high poverty, community violence, and school suspension rates in Pittsburgh. Neighborhoods were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive intervention or control programs. Participants were assessed by survey at baseline, at the end of the program, and at 3 (T2) and 9 months (T3) following program completion.
The intervention program was called “Manhood 2.0” and promoted discussion about healthy relationships, sexuality, gender norms, disrespectful behaviors, and positive bystander interventions. The control program was called “Jump Start Success: Work Readiness and Career Exploration Training” and followed a widely used curriculum of job-readiness training. Both programs comprised 18 hours split into 6 sessions, meeting once or twice a week.
At baseline, 465 and 401 participants completed the survey and at T3, 334 and 301 responded among the intervention and control groups, respectively. Among all participants, the mean age was 15.5 (standard deviation [SD], 1.6) years, 70% were Black, 21% were Hispanic, and 88% were born in the United States.
Compared with participants who did not complete the final survey at T3, those who remained in the program had higher baseline gender-equitable attitudes (3.41 vs 3.31) and were less likely to be involved with the juvenile justice system (52% vs 75%).
There was no evidence of an effect of the intervention (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.32; 95% CI, 0.86-2.01; P =.20). At baseline, 64% in the intervention program reported perpetrating SV or ARA and 52% reported perpetration at T3. This was similar among the control group at baseline (53%) and T3 (41%).
Compared with controls, participants of the intervention program were more likely to report perpetrating SV or ARA (risk ratio [RR], 1.47; 95% CI, 1.05-2.04; P =.02) or cyber-sexual abuse (OR, 1.71; 95% CI, 1.04-2.82; P =.04). Following the program, those in the intervention group said they had a greater intention to intervene as a bystander (b, 0.40; 95% CI, 0.06-0.74; P =.02) or to recognize abusive behavior (b, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.00-0.64; P =.047).
These observations may not be generalizable to another population as these participants were from an urban neighborhood with a high concentration of disadvantage and these participants volunteered to be part of the programs.
This randomized trial found little evidence for successful amalgamation for SV or ARA from a gender-based community program. Further studies of programs which have longer exposure time or greater focus on practicing skills discussed are possible future avenues for research.
Miller E, Jones KA, Culyba AJ, et al. Effect of a Community-based gender norms program on sexual violence perpetration by adolescent boys and young men: A cluster randomized clinical trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(12):e2028499. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.28499