Sexual Assertiveness Skills and Sexual Decision-Making in Adolescent Girls: Randomized Controlled Trial of an Online Program

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Abstract

Objectives

To evaluate the efficacy of an interactive, Web-based sexual health program (Health Education and Relationship Training [HEART]) for developing sexual assertiveness skills and enhancing sexual decision-making in adolescent girls.

Methods

Participants were 222 tenth-grade girls (mean age = 15.2; 38% White, 29% Hispanic, 25% Black) in the Southeastern United States who were randomized in fall 2015 to the HEART intervention or an attention-matched control. We assessed participants at pretest, immediate posttest, and 4-month follow-up.

Results

Both groups had similar demographic and sexual behavior characteristics at pretest. At immediate posttest, girls who completed the HEART program demonstrated better sexual assertiveness skills measured with a behavioral task, higher self-reported assertiveness, intentions to communicate about sexual health, knowledge regarding HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), safer sex norms and attitudes, and condom self-efficacy compared with the control condition. At 4-month follow-up, group differences remained in knowledge regarding HIV and other STDs, condom attitudes, and condom self-efficacy.

Conclusions

This brief online sexual health program can improve short-term outcomes among adolescent girls and offers an exciting new option in the growing array of digital health interventions available to youths.

Trial Registration Number

NCT02579135.

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