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Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

A Stage-Based Expert System for Teen Dating Violence Prevention (Phase I)

Project Period: 9/15/05-3/14/06
Principal Investigator: Deborah Levesque, PhD
Pro-Change Behavior Systems, Inc.
PO Box 755
West Kingston, RI 02892


Male-to-female intimate partner violence (IPV) accounts for 26 percent of violence related injuries among women presenting in hospital emergency departments and 30 percent of female homicides. Early to mid-adolescence provide excellent “windows of opportunity” for preventing intimate partner violence. However, evidence supporting traditional, school-based programs for preventing teen dating violence is mixed. This proposed project will use expert system technology to integrate best practices for teen dating violence prevention with the Transtheoretical Model (TTM), the “stage model” to develop an interactive computer-administered change program that delivers individualized intervention sessions and exercises tailored to stage of change and other individual characteristics.

Researchers will develop and validate measures of each of the major dimensions of the TTM, develop a working prototype of the expert system intervention for teen dating violence prevention, and determine the feasibility of the approach in a pilot test. High school students will participate in focus groups to generate ideas for the TTM measures (n=60) and to provide feedback on the intervention materials (n=60). Investigators will conduct cognitive interviews to ensure that TTM instructions and questions are interpreted as intended (n=12), and will administer usability tests to make certain that the expert system intervention is easily navigable and provides a coherent intervention experience (n=12). Six hundred students will complete surveys for measure development, and 100 will participate in the pilot test. Feasibility of this approach will be established if the intervention can be delivered as planned during classroom sessions to at least 90% of pilot test participants, and if at least 75% of pilot test participants provide an overall rating of 4 or higher (i.e., provide scores in the "good" to "excellent" range) on a measure of acceptability and perceived use. Positive project outcomes will better inform prevention efforts for teen dating violence and will result in effective programs that can be tailored according to the needs of the individual.