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Awarded Grant to Prevent Violence and Violence-Related Injury

Developmental Pathways to Dating Violence and Suicidal Behavior: The Healthy Teens Project

FOA Number: CDC-RFA-CE08-003: Research Grants for Preventing Violence and Violence Related Injury
Project Period: 09/01/2008 – 08/31/2011
Application/Grant Number: CE001397
Principal Investigator: Pamela Orpinas
University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc.
313 Ramsey Student Center
Athens, GA 30602
Phone: (706)542-4372
FAX: (706)542-4956
E mail:


The goal of Healthy Teens is to increase scientific understanding of different levels of risk and protective factors that influence the developmental pathways (i.e., patterns of continuity or patterns of change over time) that children and young adolescents follow from 6th through 12th grade, in relation to dating violence and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Healthy Teens differs from much of the extant research literature in that it: a) is a longitudinal study of a large sample (cohort of approximately 700 students); b) uses multiple methods (student surveys, teacher ratings, archival data on academic achievement and discipline, focus groups, and interviews; c) includes two samples of students (random and high risk); d) evaluates a large number of violence related constructs and behaviors, including risk and protective factors at multiple levels of an ecological framework; and e) includes students who dropped out of school. The unique, comprehensive design of Healthy Teens will serve to enhance our comprehension of the development of dating violence and its interrelation with suicidal thoughts and behaviors and, thus, provide a firm foundation to enhance prevention strategies. Objectives: Specific objectives are to: a) evaluate developmental trajectories from middle to high school in relation to dating and dating violence victimization and perpetration and its interrelation to suicidal thoughts and behaviors; b) evaluate the risk and protective factors that influence these developmental trajectories; and c) explore the context and meaning of dating violence from students’ perspectives. Study Design: Healthy Teens is a mixed method study that began when students were in the 6th grade; they are currently in the 11th grade. This study proposes to complete one more year of data collection (12th grade—Year 1) so that that there will be complete, comprehensive data set of this cohort from middle through high school. Data analyses will be conducted during Years 1, 2 and 3 of the proposed study. This study will employ the same data collection strategies used since students were in the 6th grade, that is: a) student self reported assessments; b) teacher behavioral ratings of students (BASC); and c) archival data. Additionally, individual interviews will be conducted with a purposeful, maximum variation sample of students who have been victims and/or perpetrators of dating violence. Setting: Healthy Teens researchers will work cooperatively with school administration and staff to collect data in the schools, as in years past. When this is not possible (e.g., student who has dropped out of school), data will be collected in students’ homes or another convenient location (e.g., public library). Participants: Healthy Teens has followed a cohort of approximately 700 students (currently in the 11th grade) in eight Northeast Georgia high schools. When students were in the 6th grade (9 middle schools), two types of samples were recruited: a random sample and a high risk for aggression sample. The random sample (676 students) represented the student population of each school; the high risk sample (213 students) consisted of students who were considered by their teachers to be aggressive and influential with peers. A small number of students (107) in the random sample were also selected for the high risk sample. Outcome Measures: All students have completed questions on dating violence norms, dating, and dating violence behaviors; high school students have completed questions related to feelings of sadness and hopelessness and suicidal thoughts and attempts. In addition, all students have completed an array of measures of risk and protective factors at the individual, family, peer, and school levels. Census data on individual neighborhood characteristics are also available.