Focusing on the Boys: The Early Impacts of Wise Guys in Davenport, Iowa

OPRE Report Number 2018-43
Publisher: Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Apr 30, 2018
Authors
Brian Goesling, Robert G. Wood, and Reginald D. Covington

Key Findings and Highlights:

  • After one year, Wise Guys increased boys’ exposure to information on healthy relationships and reproductive health topics.
  • Wise Guys increased boys’ knowledge of contraception and sexually transmitted infections, and their level of agreement with statements about the importance of condom use among sexually active youth.
  • After one year, the program did not change boys’ motivation to avoid getting someone pregnant, intentions to have sex, relationship attitudes, goal-setting abilities, or communication skills.
  • Few boys in the study sample reported having ever had sexual intercourse, as was expected at the time of the one-year follow-up survey because of their young ages.

Introduction

This report presents evidence on the early impacts of the Wise Guys Male Responsibility Curriculum in middle schools in and near the city of Davenport, Iowa. In recent years, researchers and policymakers have increasingly recognized and prioritized the need to support young men in achieving positive educational and career outcomes and becoming responsible fathers. However, many of these efforts target young men only after they become fathers. The related issue of how to help adolescent males make responsible decisions about their sexual behavior and avoid early entry into fatherhood has received considerably less attention. Recognizing the need for research on programs designed to support adolescent males, the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funded a rigorous evaluation of Wise Guys in Davenport middle schools. The program was delivered by trained staff from a local nonprofit social service provider, Bethany for Children & Families, with federal grant funding to the Iowa Department of Public Health from the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP).

Research Questions

  1. Did Wise Guys provide a meaningful supplement to the sexuality and reproductive health education boys typically received in the study schools?
  2. When delivered as an elective supplement to the standard school curriculum, did Wise Guys change boys’ knowledge, attitudes, and intentions after one year?
  3. Did the early impacts of the program vary for certain subgroups of boys?

Purpose

This report is the second in a series on the implementation and impacts of Wise Guys in Davenport middle schools. It presents evidence on the program’s early impacts after one year. It also documents the study methods. An earlier process study report described the design and implementation of the program. A future report will present evidence on the program’s longer-term impacts after two years.

The report presents evidence on the early impacts of Wise Guys on boys’ exposure to information on healthy relationships and reproductive health topics; knowledge of contraception and sexually transmitted infections; attitudes toward relationships, sexual activity, and condom use; motivation to avoid getting someone pregnant; intentions to have sex; goal-setting abilities; and communication skills.

Methods

To test the effectiveness of Wise Guys in Davenport middle schools, the study team used a random assignment evaluation design. Boys assigned to the treatment group could attend the Wise Guys sessions during the regular school day as an elective supplement to the regular school curriculum. Boys assigned to the control group could not attend Wise Guys but continued to receive the sexuality and reproductive health education provided as part of the regular school curriculum. The study team enrolled and randomly assigned a total of 736 boys over three consecutive school years, from 2013–2014 to 2015–2016. Boys in both research groups completed a baseline survey upon enrolling in the study and follow-up surveys one and two years later. Data from the one-year follow-up survey are the focus of this report.