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17-12-2019 | Original Paper | Uitgave 4/2020

Journal of Child and Family Studies 4/2020

Evaluation of an Online Sexual Health Program among Adolescent Girls with Emotional and Behavioral Difficulties

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 4/2020
Kristyn Kamke, Laura Widman, Sarah L. Desmarais
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10826-019-01685-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.



Adolescent girls with emotional and behavioral difficulties (EBDs) have a heightened risk of negative sexual health, including HIV, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unplanned pregnancy. Few evidence-based sexual health interventions are available for adolescent girls with EBDs. This study tested the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of a brief, online sexual health program called HEART (Health Education and Relationship Training).


Forty-seven participants (M-age = 15.79; SD = 1.71; 62% Black, 23% Hispanic) recruited from community-based organizations in the southeastern U.S. were compared to a non-equivalent comparison group who received an attention-matched intervention.


Findings support the feasibility of participant recruitment and program administration in community-based settings. Participants completed HEART in 44 min and experienced few technological difficulties. HEART was highly acceptable: most participants liked, learned from, and were engaged with the program. Further, 92% would recommend HEART to a friend and 98% would use what they learned in the future. At posttest, intervention participants had significantly higher communication intentions, communication skills, STI/HIV knowledge, sexual self-efficacy, condom attitudes, and condom norms than the comparison group (ps < 0.003; effect size ds= 0.38–1.65). Significant improvement in condom intentions was observed when comparing pretest to posttest scores among intervention participants only, t(46) = −3.21, d= 0.47.


Findings support the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of HEART among adolescent girls with EBDs in community-based settings. This study also addresses the growing need for research into the transferability of sexual health interventions to facilitate evidence-based decision-making about program dissemination and implementation.

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