The Potential of Peers in Sexual Risk Avoidance Programs: Highlights from a Sexual Risk Avoidance Education National Evaluation (SRAENE) Technical Working Group

The Potential of Peers in Sexual Risk Avoidance Programs: Highlights from a Sexual Risk Avoidance Education National Evaluation (SRAENE) Technical Working Group

OPRE Report No. #2023-283
Published: Sep 29, 2023
Publisher: Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

D. Gates

D. Z. LiMandri

Jennifer Tippins

Susan Zeif

Key Findings

Peer-based strategies have the potential to support the development of self-regulation and co-regulation in other youth.

  • The literature points to two peer-based approaches that have a good evidence base for enhancing self-regulation that might be applicable to SRAE programs — peer mentoring and peer tutoring (also referred to as peer education).
  • An exploratory conversation with 18 FYSB-funded SRAE grantees showed that incorporating peer-based strategies is both congruent with their current programming and promising in regard to planned or proposed program improvements.
  • Two common themes from the conversation emerged related to using peers as co-regulators: peers as co-regulators occupy a unique place in the broader supportive community around youth; however, more guidance is needed on how to incorporate co-regulation into peer-based strategies.
  • Preliminary guidance from grantees for SRAE programs considering using peer-based strategies include (1) building a coalition of partners and champions, (2) creating a peer-based program with benefits that resonate with youth; (3) understanding what makes an effective peer co-regulator and design a recruitment process to identify theme; (4) infusing equity and inclusion throughout the program, beginning with recruitment; and (5) co-creating supportive environments that foster relationships between adult staff and peer staff.

The Sexual Risk Avoidance Education National Evaluation (SRAENE) seeks to understand how programs can promote youth self-regulation, including exploring how co-regulation can support that outcome in Sexual Risk Avoidance Education (SRAE) programs. SRAENE is a federally funded evaluation of SRAE programs funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). One arm of the evaluation, the Program Components Impact Study (CIS), is focused on identifying ways SRAE grantees can implement activities to support the grant requirement of providing content related to positive youth development and self-regulation.

On November 9, 2022, Mathematica convened a Technical Working Group of 18 FYSB-funded SRAE grantees representing an array of contexts and locations (from American Samoa and Guam, to suburban and rural areas of the U.S. mainland) and several experts in the self-regulation and co-regulation field. Mathematica solicited feedback from grantees about how they structure and implement their peer-based strategies. Experts in the field provided a basic, common understanding of self-regulation, co-regulation, and best practices related to peer tutoring and mentoring. Together, we had an exploratory conversation to better understand the promise of peer-based strategies and how it aligns with self-regulation development and the process of co-regulation. This brief also includes research summarized from a literature review and web scan.

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