Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2009, $777,813)
Research is urgently needed to 1) target interventions to high risk groups, such as teen girls in foster care; 2) rigorously test interventions grounded in empirical research on revictimization (RV); and 3) specify the mechanisms that underlie RV. To address these research needs, this study will test two intervention programs designed to decrease RV in teen dating relationships in a sample of adolescent girls in foster care. The interventions arise from two different empirical and theoretical approaches to the problem of RV: 1) social learning and feminist theory (from the teen dating violence literature); and 2) risk detection (from the adult sexual RV literature). Incorporating recent cognitive neuroscience research, this study will expand the risk detection intervention to focus on improving teens' executive function skills (EFs). EFs include a range of cognitive abilities that are 1) critical to detecting danger cues (e.g., noticing danger, planning and initiating responses) and 2) often impaired in youth and adults previously exposed to violence. In partnership with Denver County Department of Human Services (DDHS), 180 adolescent girls in foster care will be randomly selected for participation. The project focuses on females because the aim is to target reduction of RV in adolescence that is predictive of additional RV in adulthood, for which women (and not men) appear to be at risk (Desai et al., 2002). Teens will be randomly assigned to either waitlist control (WLC) or one of two intervention conditions; interventions will be administered in a group format. Teens will be assessed four times: pre-, immediately post-, as well as 2- and 6-months after the intervention.
Because the social learning/feminist and risk detection interventions implicate different mechanisms for RV, we have selected measures to assess the specific RV mechanisms targeted by each intervention. For example, the social learning/feminist approach emphasizes the role that sexism plays in RV, while the risk detection approach focuses on deficits in the ability to detect danger cues. Thus, measures that tap teens' perceptions of sexism as well as ability to detect danger are included in the assessment battery. Researchers will test whether the respective interventions cause unique changes in the mechanisms they implicate. Further, by examining which measures predict dating violence at the follow-up assessments, researchers will be able to make inferences about mechanisms underlying RV risk. For example, if increases in healthy relationship skills (and not perceptions of sexism) predict decreases in dating violence, new information about the particular mechanisms that mediate RV will be discovered. Thus, the current research will yield important findings on the relative effectiveness of two interventions; and specific mechanisms underlying RV risk in teen dating relationships. This research has important implications for developing programs to decrease RV.