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Research Article Critique
Research Methods in Social Work I
Social Work 3810
By: Heather Warczinsky

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Young Adolescents are already engaging in sexual activities and behaviors, for
instance risks in becoming pregnant, having HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted
infections. This issue that is being addressed by the research is that the STAR LO, which
is a theater based intervention that is designed to teach/prevent early adolescents from
engaging in sexual activity that places them at risk for pregnancy and sexually
transmitted infections. The goal of the theater-based prevention program can help early
adolescents improve awareness, attitudes, and intentions that may prevent future sexual
risk behavior. The Hypothesis from this study presents that young adolescents in the
STAR LO intervention would report higher and lower levels of sexual activity containing
goals to engage in sexual behavior, knowledge, attitudes about sex and self-discipline,
self-efficacy, and parent-child communication, than those in the comparison group across
the 3 months from pretest to follow-up. The key variables in this study are Intention to
have sex, Intended timing and age of first sex, Self-efficacy, Desire to be a teen parent
and Parent-child communication. The variables were defined and measured by the
following: The first variable is the Intention to have sex and the Adolescents conveyed
that while being a teen and before they get married, they would most likely have sexual
intercourse using a scale ranging from 1 = definitely not to 4 = definitely will. The Data
collectors simplified that sexual intercourse was the same thing as “sex” and was
sometimes called “going all the way.” Intended timing and age of first sex is the second
variable used during this intervention and the Adolescents were then asked when they
thought they would first have sexual intercourse, with possible responses of “I will not
have sex until I am married,” “I will have sex around age ___, whether or not I am

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married,” “I really don’t know,” and “I have already had sex.” The adolescents that have
already had sexual intercourse were disqualified from the intervention. Self-efficacy is
the third variable used during the intervention. The Adolescents answered five items
regarding their confidence that they could struggle a variety of pressures for risk
behaviors with someone they liked. The adolescents responses range from 1 = very sure
to 4 = very unsure (pretest α = .76). Responses were reverse coded and summed. Desire
to be a teen parent is the fourth variable used during the intervention. The Adolescents
stated how much they wanted to become a parent while a teenager and how they wanted
to have a baby. Using a scale ranging from 1 (definitely do not want) to 3 (definitely want
to). The STAR LO (Lieberman & Berlin, 2005) research was designed to reach early
adolescents, before they initiate sexual experimentation, providing them with a message
that they have the ability to be self-sufficient and establish healthy physical or romantic
boundaries, also be able to communicate their sexual questions and concerns with parents
and other adults. In order to achieve their goal they figured they needed at least 61
students per school at a total of 16 schools at the final follow-up. At the participating
schools, all the students were selected at the highest grade level, now depending on the
schools, the highest level was fifth grade and for some schools it was sixth grade. The
participants were 1,143 fifth- and sixth-grade students who attended New York City
public elementary and middle schools in neighborhoods who had a higher teenage
pregnancy rates than the whole city. In this study, the sampling frame was a quasi-
experimental design with schools assigned to the intervention or comparison condition
and used multivariate regression models to test treatment effects. There was a Nitestar
version that was created for the high school intervention in 1985 that offered workshops,

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material’s, trainings and programs in the New York City Schools and other communities.
But the STAR LO is the middle school version of NiteStar (The Nitestar Program, 2011).
The Schools that had participated and received interventions or materials from the
NiteStar program in previous years, were enrolled to the STAR LO intervention group for
the current study. There were 896 students from 9 schools in the STAR LO group and
247 from 7 schools in the comparison condition. Eventually, nine schools received the
intervention, seven of the schools served as a comparison site at some point in the study,
for total of 16 schools. The Comparison schools received the intervention 1 or 2 years
later, and data from those intervention participants were included as part of the study’s
intervention sample. In two occurrences, the school which once had served as a
comparison site later served as an intervention site. However, both of these schools, the
students received the intervention in the fifth grade who had already moved on to a sixth-
to eighth-grade middle school, by the time a new cohort of fifth graders served as a
comparison group in a following school year. The intervention was presented by outside
specialists, who were the STAR LO professionals rather than teachers, in that way
limiting risk of corruption between intervention and comparison students by using their
classroom teachers. If the sampling frame and sample had been selected in a different
way where they picked schools not in a higher rate risk for teenage pregnancy, then the
results would have been different and they would have really never had students who
were interested and they wouldn’t have really made a difference in their thinking. I feel
like it was a good idea to bring in STAR LO professionals instead having the teachers
present the intervention because I feel like the students would listen to them better than
their teachers and they know what they are doing. Someone from the NiteStar staff who

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is trained was there to collect the Data in the classroom because it couldn’t be someone
who was involved in the STAR LO intervention. Before the intervention began and a
given posttest survey 1 to 2 weeks after the last classroom intervention session, Students
had to finish a paper-pencil pretest survey in their classrooms. While the Survey was
being administrated, teachers and STAR LO intervention staff were not present in the
classroom. Approximately 12 weeks between pre- and posttests were given, the Students
in the comparison schools received pretests and posttests at the same time intervals. The
Students were asked to create a code combining their birth date and first and last letters of
their last names and they were not allowed to put their names on their surveys, so every
survey that they completed they were to use their code that they created. After the first
data collection, the data collectors returned back to each classroom once after the pretest
and twice after the posttest to conduct the surveys to absentees. The mean age of the
study group was 11.5 years. Substantially females were more than half of the
participating students. Roughly, 37% were Latino, 29% were African American, 12%
were White, 10% were multiethnic, 4% were Asian, and 8% indicated that they were
from “Other” racial/ethnic backgrounds. Students participating in the study replicated the
ethnic characteristics in the nearby communities of these neighborhood schools. I feel
like they did a great job involving all races into the surveys but I feel like they could have
involved more economic status instead of just lower class. Overall, I thought that this
intervention was well thought out and thought they were really organized and did a great
job. The STAR LO participants showed improvements from pre- to post intervention in
relative to the comparison group participants in intention to have sex; intended timing of
first sex; and intended age of first sex; knowledge about puberty, sex, and pregnancy

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prevention; pro-abstinence attitudes; and desire to be a teen parent, controlling for pretest
levels, school site, age, race/ethnicity, and grade retention. The mean result scores by the
treatment groups exposed knowledge that both of the groups STAR LO and Comparison
participants increased over time, but there was a larger increase involving the STAR LO
participants. The STAR LO participants established an increase in pro-abstinence attitude
and intended age of first sex, whereas the Comparison Participants showed a decrease.
On the other hand, the comparison students conveyed increases in intention to have sex
while a teenager and desire to be a teen parent, although STAR LO students showed a
decrease. The STAR LO participants sadly did not show enhancements in self-efficacy or
parent-child communication. On the other hand, the STAR LO participants did show
improvements on their response involving their sexual intentions, when asked about timing of
first sex endorsing intentions from “I don’t know” to either “wait until marriage or a specific age
in the future.” The finding of the study could be improved by maybe talking with the
participants before giving them the survey, even though they do a great job presented the
problem to the students in a theater setting and acting out sexual health messages to the
students. I believe that the intervention in the article would prove effective with my target
population because the teenage girls could watch the message that is being provided for them
by professional who are acting out certain situations and focusing on building confidence;
setting goals which include delaying sexual activity; increasing self-efficacy in refusal skills;
improving knowledge about puberty, sex, pregnancy, and STI prevention; also improving
decision making with setting physical boundaries and limits; and encouraging communication
with parents about these topics. It is something different that the teenage girls are not use to
seeing. The challenges and barriers would make it difficult to implement the intervention in my
agency difficult are the cost, getting the teenage girls together, setting up a time and place, and

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transportation, validity and reliability. The activities of the program relate to the problem by it
is demonstrated to the young adults to beware of the sexual infections they could receive while
engaging in sexual activity and how much responsibility that they would have by being a
teenage mother or father, decision making, preventing them to have the desire to be a teenage
parent and having sexual intercourse at an early age, and know that they are responsible for
their actions and to provide them great tips on how to communicate with their parents about
certain topics. I feel like this intervention had its ups and downs in certain areas but still needs
some improvements by involving more schools, there were some limitations and random
assignments were not used during this intervention. Also, during the intervention there were
students who were absent so it was hard to catch them up on some things. On the other hand,
the ones who were there on the first day of intervention were absent other days, so maybe
finding an incentive by keeping the students in school while participating during the
intervention. Overall, I really liked the idea that they have by engaging the students in a
different way by acting it all out to them and in feel like they definitely got their attention but I
also feel like they shouldn’t just go to the urban schools, they should also involve suburban
areas where there is also higher rates of teenage pregnancy. I also felt like they should have a
better follow up procedure, I felt like they should have follow up with them more than once, to
make sure they were still having the same positive mind set.

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• Lisa D. Lieberman, Cydelle Berlin, Lori-Ann Palen and Olivia Silber Ashley. (2011).
A Theater-Based Approach to Primary Prevention of Sexual Behavior for Early Adolescents. The
Journal of Early Adolescence, 32: 730