Effects of Dating Matters® on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Outcomes among Middle School Youth: a Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial


Sexual violence (SV), including sexual harassment (SH), is a significant public health problem affecting adolescent health and well-being. This study extends prior research by evaluating the effectiveness of a comprehensive teen dating violence prevention model, Dating Matters, on SV and SH perpetration and victimization, inclusive of any victim-perpetrator relationship, among middle school students. Dating Matters includes classroom-delivered programs for youth in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades; community-based programs for parents; a youth communications program; training for educators; and community-level activities. Middle schools in four urban areas in the USA were randomly assigned to receive Dating Matters (DM, N = 22) or a standard-of-care intervention (SC, N = 24) over four consecutive school years (2012–2016). The analytic sample included two cohorts who entered the study in 6th grade and completed 8th grade by the end of the study allowing for full exposure to Dating Matters (DM: N = 1662; SC: N = 1639; 53% female; 50% black, non-Hispanic; 6 waves of data collection for each cohort). Structural equation modeling was employed with multiple imputation to account for missing data. Dating Matters was associated with significant reductions in SV and SH perpetration and victimization scores in most—but not all—sex/cohort groups by the end of 8th grade relative to an evidence-based TDV prevention program. On average, students receiving Dating Matters scored 6% lower on SV perpetration, 3% lower on SV victimization, 4% lower on SH perpetration, and 8% lower on SH victimization by the end of middle school than students receiving an evidence-based violence prevention program. Overall, Dating Matters shows promise for reducing SV and SH, occurring both within and outside dating relationships, through middle school. Clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01672541

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Dating Matters, Sexual Violence, Sexual Harassment, Teen Dating Violence, Prevention
DeGue, S., Niolon, P.H., Estefan, L.F. et al. Effects of Dating Matters® on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Outcomes among Middle School Youth: a Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial. Prev Sci 22, 175–185 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-020-01152-0