Pregnancy, birth rates fall among young women exposed to elementary school intervention program

An elementary school intervention program that promotes social competency, academic success and bonding to school also has the long-term effect of cutting pregnancy and birth rates among young women before age 21, according to a new University of Washington study. In addition, the program reduced levels of risky sexual behavior and sexually transmitted diseases among blacks who received the intervention.

The results, published in the May 14 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, found that by age 21 the pregnancy rate among young women in the multi-ethnic sample who received the intervention was 38 percent, compared to 56 percent of women not in the program. The birth rate showed a similar drop, with just 23 percent of those in the intervention group giving birth compared to 40 percent of those not in the program.

The study, headed by J. David Hawkins, director of the UW's Social Development Research Group and a professor of social work, and Heather Lonczak, a research analyst with the group, is particularly noteworthy because the intervention program does not have a sex education component.

"These results fit with our theory that if children become bonded to school and committed to achieving in school during the elementary grades, they are less likely to risk that bond by engaging in behavior that puts their future success at risk," said Hawkins. "But I was surprised by the findings. We never predicted such a big drop in the teen pregnancy or birth rate in our sample."

Lonczak said the intervention appears to have long-term benefits because it "gets to the guts of issues" and offers hope.

"It fosters a commitment to schools and communities and it gets parents involved in schools," she said. "It teaches children that they that they are competent, can succeed and can go on to college, get a job and have a future. This is not to say that sex education is not important. It is, and children need this kind of

Contact: Joel Schwarz
University of Washington

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