An Experimental Test of the Bridges to High School Intervention on Harsh Parenting and Early Age Intercourse Among Mexican American Adolescents


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Abstract

Objective: Can an intervention that contained no content on sex or contraception reduce rates of early-age intercourse among Mexican American adolescents? The current study examined whether the Bridges to High School intervention designed, in part, to decrease harsh parenting, had a longitudinal effect on decreasing rates of early-age intercourse in the treatment versus control groups, as well as the moderating role of gender and linguistic acculturation. Method: The sample consisted of 516 Mexican American adolescents (Mage = 12.31 years; 50.8% female) and their mothers who participated in a randomized, intervention trial. A series of longitudinal, meditational path models were used to examine the effects of the intervention on harsh parenting practices and early-age intercourse. Results: Our findings revealed that participation in the treatment versus control group was indirectly linked to a lower likelihood of early-age intercourse through decreased maternal harsh parenting. Tests of mediation were significant. These findings did not vary across gender and linguistic acculturation. Conclusion: Results suggest that the Bridges to High School intervention successfully decreased early-age intercourse among Mexican American adolescents through reduced harsh parenting among mothers. This finding is consistent with positive youth development programs that have been found to have broad, and sometimes nontargeted, effects on adolescent sexual behaviors.

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