Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Kevin Swartout

Second Advisor

Dr. Chris Henrich

Third Advisor

Dr. Sarah Cook

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Gabriel Kuperminc


A growing body of evidence suggests that program implementation is significantly related to the efficacy of child and adolescent prevention programming. Moreover, participant responsiveness (also referred to as engagement) has been identified as a key component of the implementation of programs designed to prevent problems like school violence, bullying, and drug use. Teen dating violence (TDV) is another significant public health issue in the United States for which prevention programs are being designed and delivered. Perhaps one of the most popular and empirically supported of these programs is Safe Dates, though researchers have yet to investigate students’ engagement with the curriculum. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to develop a measure of engagement that could be used with Safe Dates and to examine whether students’ engagement with the program was related to changes in students’ acceptance of TDV.

Data were collected from 81 high school students (50 girls, 31 boys; ages 13-17) across eight health classes at a school in metro Atlanta where Safe Dates was delivered. Participants were asked about their attitudes toward various types of dating violence in a pre- and post-test survey that was administered before and after the ten-session Safe Dates program. Participants also completed a survey at the end of each session that asked about their behavioral, affective, and cognitive engagement with that session of the program.

Results of confirmatory factor analyses revealed that the engagement survey operated better as an overall measure of engagement rather than a set of subscales measuring each dimension. Linear growth models revealed that students’ engagement with the program over the course of the ten-session curriculum was unrelated to changes in their attitudes toward female physical violence, male physical violence, verbal aggression, and jealous behaviors. Possible explanations and limitations are discussed, as well as ways for future studies to address these. Future research should also investigate other aspects of implementation, like dosage, facilitator quality, and fidelity vs. adaptation, as they relate to Safe Dates and its efficacy.


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