•  

Intervention Summary

Back to Results Start New Search

Relationship Smarts PLUS (RS+)

Relationship Smarts PLUS (RS+) is designed to help youth ages 14-18 gain knowledge and develop skills for making good decisions about forming and maintaining healthy relationships. Based on the cognitive and communications theories and concepts embodied in the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP), reviewed separately by NREPP, RS+ aims to increase reasoning and positive conflict management skills, healthy relationship skills and knowledge, and beliefs regarding healthy relationships, while decreasing destructive verbal and physical aggression.

RS+ is implemented by an instructor in 13 sessions, each of approximately 1 hour, that cover four units: Foundation for Understanding Romantic Relationships, Knowledge About Dating Relationship Processes, Communication Skills for Healthy Relationships and Marriages, and Marriage and Planning for the Future. Topics addressed include setting and attaining future goals, dealing with peer pressure, understanding the building blocks of good relationships and the meaning of love and intimacy, identifying and making good relationship choices, determining whether a relationship is healthy or unhealthy, using good communication skills and changing negative communication patterns, and understanding why a healthy marriage matters. Sessions include presentations, small- and large-group discussions, creative activities, practice using specific relationship skills, and video illustrations. Youth are also given opportunities through brief take-home activities to discuss what they have learned in the class with a parent or trusted adult.

Training is recommended for implementers but is not required. The program can be delivered to diverse populations of youth in schools, correctional settings, and a variety of community-based settings. Both studies reviewed for this summary were conducted in schools.

Descriptive Information

Areas of Interest Mental health promotion
Outcomes Review Date: March 2012
1: Verbal aggression
2: Relationship beliefs
3: Conflict management skills
Outcome Categories Social functioning
Ages 13-17 (Adolescent)
Genders Male
Female
Races/Ethnicities Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino
White
Race/ethnicity unspecified
Settings School
Geographic Locations Urban
Suburban
Rural and/or frontier
Implementation History Since it was first implemented in 1997, RS+ has reached an estimated 90,000 youth at approximately 1,650 sites, including public and alternative education schools, workforce development programs, Planned Parenthood sites, youth agencies, corrections agencies, and faith-based organizations.
NIH Funding/CER Studies Partially/fully funded by National Institutes of Health: No
Evaluated in comparative effectiveness research studies: No
Adaptations Intervention materials have been translated into Russian. The intervention also has been adapted for young adults and young parents. Participant materials for this adaptation, called Love Notes: Making Relationships Work for Young Adults and Young Parents, have been translated into Spanish.
Adverse Effects No adverse effects, concerns, or unintended consequences were identified by the developer.
IOM Prevention Categories Universal

Quality of Research
Review Date: March 2012

Documents Reviewed

The documents below were reviewed for Quality of Research. The research point of contact can provide information regarding the studies reviewed and the availability of additional materials, including those from more recent studies that may have been conducted.

Study 1

Adler-Baeder, F., Kerpelman, J. L., Schramm, D. G., Higginbotham, B., & Paulk, A. (2007). The impact of relationship education on adolescents of diverse backgrounds. Family Relations, 56, 291-303.

Study 2

Kerpelman, J. L., Pittman, J. F., Adler-Baeder, F., Eryigit, S., & Paulk, A. (2009). Evaluation of a statewide youth-focused relationships education curriculum. Journal of Adolescence, 32(6), 1359-1370.  Pub Med icon

Kerpelman, J. L., Pittman, J. F., Adler-Baeder, F., Stringer, K. J., Eryigit, S., Saint-Eloi Cadely, H., et al. (2010). What adolescents bring to and learn from relationship education classes: Does social address matter? Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, 9, 95-112.

Supplementary Materials

Buhrmester, D., Furman, W., Wittenberg, M. T., & Reis, H. T. (1988). Five domains of interpersonal competence in peer relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55(6), 991-1008.  Pub Med icon

Cobb, N. P., Larson, J. H., & Watson, W. L. (2003). Development of the Attitudes About Romance and Mate Selection Scale. Family Relations, 52, 222-231.

Gardner, S. (2005). Final summary report for the evaluation of the Connections: Dating and Emotions Curriculum. Brookings: South Dakota State University.

Intervention fidelity data summary table

Outcomes

Outcome 1: Verbal aggression
Description of Measures Verbal aggression was measured using a revised version of the Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS2), which assesses both the type and frequency of behaviors used (i.e., reasoning, verbal aggression, physical aggression) when dealing with conflict. For each of 18 tactics that can be used in settling differences, students used a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 0 (never) to 6 (more than 20 times) to indicate how frequently they had used the tactic in the past 2 months. Factor analysis was used to create the verbal aggression subscale, which consisted of 4 items. Students completed the revised version of the CTS2 in a paper-and-pencil format before and immediately after the intervention.
Key Findings A study compared students receiving the intervention with those participating in the regular classroom curriculum. Compared with the control group, the intervention group had a significant decrease in use of verbal aggression from pre- to posttest (p = .02).
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 2.7 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 2: Relationship beliefs
Description of Measures In one study, relationship beliefs were measured using the Relationship Beliefs Scale. For each of 17 statements reflecting beliefs about relationships, students indicated their level of agreement using a 4-point scale ranging from 1 (yes, strongly agree) to 4 (no, strongly disagree). Factor analysis was used to create 3 subscales: aggression beliefs, which included 2 items (e.g., ''in today's society, slapping a spouse or dating partner is understandable under some circumstances''); faulty relationship beliefs, which included 5 items (e.g., ''most long-term, happy marriages never have conflict''); and realistic relationship beliefs, which included 4 items (e.g., ''your communication style is affected by your family members' style of communication''). Students completed the Relationship Beliefs Scale in a paper-and-pencil format before and immediately after the intervention.

In another study, a subscale was used to measure each of three theoretically derived faulty relationship beliefs: one and only (i.e., only one ideal mate exists for each person), love is enough (i.e., love should "trump" all other factors in the decision to marry), and cohabitation (i.e., cohabitation will improve chances of remaining happily married). Each subscale included 4 items at pre- and posttest and 1 item at 1- and 2-year follow-up. The single items for the one and only, love is enough, and cohabitation subscales were as follows, respectively: "There is only one true love out there who is right for me to marry," "In the end, our feelings of love should be enough to sustain a happy marriage," and "Living together before marriage will improve our chances of remaining happily married." For each item, students indicated their level of agreement with the statement using a scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Students completed the pretest before the intervention and the posttest after the intervention (6 weeks after pretest) using a paper-and-pencil format of the instrument. Students completed computer-based follow-up surveys 1 and 2 years after posttest.
Key Findings One study compared students receiving the intervention with those participating in the regular classroom curriculum. Compared with the control group, the intervention group had a significant increase in realistic relationship beliefs from pre- to posttest (p = .03).

In another study, schools were randomly assigned to a group implementing the intervention or to a group providing the regular classroom curriculum. Intervention group students had significant improvement from pre- to posttest on all three subscales (i.e., love is enough, one and only, cohabitation) in comparison with those in the control group (p < .001 for all subscales). These results were maintained at 1-year follow-up but not 2-year follow-up. A subsample analysis that controlled for the influence of social and economic factors was conducted using the pretest, posttest, and 1-year follow-up data on the love is enough subscale. In this analysis, the intervention group compared with the control group had significant improvement on the love is enough subscale from pretest through 1-year follow-up (p < .01).
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1, Study 2
Study Designs Experimental, Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 2.7 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 3: Conflict management skills
Description of Measures Conflict management skills were measured using the conflict management subscale from the Interpersonal Competence Questionnaire. This 8-item subscale assesses the respondent's perceived ability to manage conflict effectively in close relationships. For each item (e.g., "Being able to take a close companion's perspective in a fight and really understand his/her point"), the student indicated his or her level of perceived ability using a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (I am poor at this) to 5 (I am extremely good at this). Researchers used a factor analysis, based on an independent sample of college students, to select 5 items for use in the study. Students completed the pretest before the intervention and the posttest after the intervention (6 weeks after pretest) using a paper-and-pencil format of the instrument. Students completed computer-based follow-up surveys 1 and 2 years after posttest.
Key Findings Schools were randomly assigned to a group implementing the intervention or to a group providing the regular classroom curriculum. Intervention group students did not have significant improvement in perceived conflict management skills in comparison with those in the control group at any postintervention assessment. A subsample analysis that controlled for the influence of social and economic factors was conducted using the pretest, posttest, and 1-year follow-up data on conflict management skills. In this analysis, the intervention group compared with the control group had significant improvement in perceived conflict management skills from pretest through 1-year follow-up (p < .01).
Studies Measuring Outcome Study 2
Study Designs Experimental
Quality of Research Rating 2.8 (0.0-4.0 scale)

Study Populations

The following populations were identified in the studies reviewed for Quality of Research.

Study Age Gender Race/Ethnicity
Study 1 13-17 (Adolescent) 74% Female
26% Male
50% White
46% Black or African American
3% Race/ethnicity unspecified
1% Hispanic or Latino
Study 2 13-17 (Adolescent) 75% Female
25% Male
65% White
28% Black or African American
7% Race/ethnicity unspecified

Quality of Research Ratings by Criteria (0.0-4.0 scale)

External reviewers independently evaluate the Quality of Research for an intervention's reported results using six criteria:

  1. Reliability of measures
  2. Validity of measures
  3. Intervention fidelity
  4. Missing data and attrition
  5. Potential confounding variables
  6. Appropriateness of analysis

For more information about these criteria and the meaning of the ratings, see Quality of Research.

Outcome Reliability
of Measures
Validity
of Measures
Fidelity Missing
Data/Attrition
Confounding
Variables
Data
Analysis
Overall
Rating
1: Verbal aggression 3.5 4.0 1.0 1.5 2.5 3.5 2.7
2: Relationship beliefs 3.3 3.3 2.1 1.9 2.4 3.1 2.7
3: Conflict management skills 2.8 3.3 2.0 3.3 2.5 2.8 2.8

Study Strengths

Most of the measures used in the studies are well established and have good psychometric properties. The intervention is based on a strong theoretical foundation. Training was provided to the teachers to deliver the intervention. Overall, analyses were appropriate, and in one study, sophisticated growth curve modeling was used to capture differences between the intervention and control groups over time.

Study Weaknesses

The psychometric properties of some instruments are based on research conducted with college students, not the study population. Neither study adequately monitored fidelity, and it is unclear whether teachers implemented all program modules as intended. Attrition and missing data were high in both studies, particularly for the 1- and 2-year follow-up surveys administered in one study when half the participating students had graduated from high school. For that study, the amount of data imputed at 2-year follow-up to compensate for high attrition makes it difficult to draw firm conclusions. In the other study, the relevance of diversity and other potentially confounding variables was discussed but remained largely unaddressed in analyses.

Readiness for Dissemination
Review Date: March 2012

Materials Reviewed

The materials below were reviewed for Readiness for Dissemination. The implementation point of contact can provide information regarding implementation of the intervention and the availability of additional, updated, or new materials.

McLaren, N. (1993). The art of loving well: A character education curriculum for today's teenagers. Boston, MA: Boston University.

Pearson, M. E. (2007). Love U2: Relationship Smarts PLUS: Instructor's manual. Berkeley, CA: Dibble Institute.

Pearson, M. E. (2007). Love U2: Relationship Smarts PLUS: Student workbook. Berkeley, CA: Dibble Institute.

Program Web site, http://www.dibbleinstitute.org/love-u2-relationship-smarts-plus-new/

Readiness for Dissemination Ratings by Criteria (0.0-4.0 scale)

External reviewers independently evaluate the intervention's Readiness for Dissemination using three criteria:

  1. Availability of implementation materials
  2. Availability of training and support resources
  3. Availability of quality assurance procedures

For more information about these criteria and the meaning of the ratings, see Readiness for Dissemination.

Implementation
Materials
Training and Support
Resources
Quality Assurance
Procedures
Overall
Rating
3.3 2.5 2.5 2.8

Dissemination Strengths

The dissemination materials include a comprehensive instructor's manual that provides an overview and discussion of the intervention's goals as well as session-specific guidance, such as directions on how to organize and prepare for each training session. Program materials focus on engaging adolescents and cater to different learning styles through the use of PowerPoint slides, handouts, activities, and a student workbook. Implementation support is offered on site and by phone and email. Teacher checklists are available for each lesson, and pre- and posttest measures are provided to monitor outcomes.

Dissemination Weaknesses

The materials do not define the skills, training, or experience needed for implementers to handle issues that may arise in discussing sensitive topics. It is unclear whether the optional training addresses these issues. The teacher checklists have limited use for fidelity monitoring, as they are intended as self-monitoring tools, and no instructions are provided on how to score the checklists or use the results to improve program delivery. Likewise, no information is available on how to administer or score the pre- and posttest measures or on how to use the results to improve program delivery.

Costs

The cost information below was provided by the developer. Although this cost information may have been updated by the developer since the time of review, it may not reflect the current costs or availability of items (including newly developed or discontinued items). The implementation point of contact can provide current information and discuss implementation requirements.

Item Description Cost Required by Developer
Instructor's Manual $335 each Yes
Student Workbook $75 per pack of 10 Yes
The Art of Loving Well: A Character Education Curriculum for Today's Teenagers (anthology) $26.95 each Yes
1-day, on-site basic or refresher training $2,000 plus travel expenses, with no maximum number of participants No
On-site technical support $1,200-$1,500 per day, depending on site needs, plus travel expenses No
Technical support by phone or email Free for 2 hours and $100 for each additional hour No
Curriculum Cross-Walk Free No
Teacher Checklists Free No
Pre- and posttests Free No

Additional Information

Discounts are available for some items ordered in large quantities.

Replications

Selected citations are presented below. An asterisk indicates that the document was reviewed for Quality of Research.

Futris, T. G. (2010). Helping youth develop Relationship Smarts. 2009 University of Georgia Cooperative Extension impact report. Athens: Department of Child and Family Development, University of Georgia. Available from http://www.fcs.uga.edu/ext/gamarriages/RS_State_Impact_Report-2009.pdf

Futris, T. G. (2011). Helping youth develop Relationship Smarts. 2010 University of Georgia Cooperative Extension impact report. Athens: Department of Child and Family Development, University of Georgia. Available from http://www.fcs.uga.edu/ext/gamarriages/RS_State_Impact_Report-2010.pdf

McBride, C., Miller, C., & Vorderstrasse, V. (n.d.). Relationship skills for adolescents: Health promotion through a college service learning course. Poster session. Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL. Available from http://www.dibbleinstitute.org/Documents/Roosevelt-U-poster.pdf

Trella, D. (2009). Adolescents and romantic relationship education programs. Research Brief. Bowling Green, OH: National Center for Family and Marriage Research, Bowling Green State University. Available from http://ncfmr.bgsu.edu/pdf/research_briefs/file78740.pdf

Trella, D. (2009). Relationship Smarts: Assessment of an adolescent relationship education program. Working Paper Series. Bowling Green, OH: National Center for Family and Marriage Research, Bowling Green State University. Available from http://ncfmr.bgsu.edu/pdf/working_papers/file78718.pdf

Trella, D. (2010). Adolescent union beliefs and expectations: A focus on participants in relationship education programs. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH. Available from http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=bgsu1265314931

Contact Information

To learn more about implementation, contact:
Kay Reed
(510) 528-7975
kayreed@dibbleinstitute.org

To learn more about research, contact:
Jennifer Kerpelman, Ph.D.
(334) 844-3790
jkerpelman@auburn.edu

Consider these Questions to Ask (PDF, 54KB) as you explore the possible use of this intervention.

Web Site(s):