$434K in Stimulus to Help Latina Middle-Schoolers 'Resist' Sex Created 0.91 Jobs

May 23, 2013 - 10:28 AM
latina teen pregnancy

One of the “shovel ready” projects funded by the 2009 stimulus law included more than $400,000 to test a “mixed reality” game for Latina middle schoolers so they are better able to resist peer pressure to have sex.


(CNSNews.com) - One of the “shovel ready” projects funded by the 2009 stimulus law included more than $400,000 to test a “mixed reality” game for Latina middle schoolers so they are better able to resist peer pressure to have sex.

The University of Central Florida (UCF) received $434,812 beginning in 2010 for the project, entitled, “Using Mixed Reality to Build Peer Resistance Skills in Latina Middle Schoolers."

According to the grant description, “This study will test a prototype for a game that builds the skills that Latinas need to resist pressure to engage in intercourse when they are in middle school, thereby decreasing their risk for teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Study results will also be helpful to other researchers developing technology-based health games designed to promote health.”

The project has been completed, Barbara Abney, director of marketing and communications at UCF, told CNSNews.com.

“Forty-four low-income early adolescent Hispanic girls took part in the study, which included peer resistance skill curriculum followed by specially developed, technology-assisted, social interaction game play,” Abney said.

Researchers found “that by using an avatar-based, virtual reality, peer-resistance skill-building game, in combination with curriculum, teenage girls were better able to resist peer pressure to participate in risky behaviors.”

According to Recovery.gov, the website for tracking stimulus funds, the project created 0.91 jobs.

Abney told CNSNews.com that “several” part-time positions were created over the project’s two-year lifespan.  This included two research assistants, a part-time project manager, four positions for people who worked less than 60 hours a year and two high school student research assistants.

“This ‘shovel ready,’ two-year project is guided by an interdisciplinary team working in collaboration with an afterschool and summer camp program for low income, middle school children in a predominately Latino community in Orlando, Florida,” the grant states.  “Game design is driven by a theoretical framework integrating social cognitive theory, the communication competence model, and Piaget's theory of cognitive development.”

The emphasis was placed on Latinas because they have a pregnancy rate that is twice that of non-Hispanic whites.  “The middle school years are targeted because this is an ideal point at which to intervene to delay initiation of intercourse,” the grant said.

“A delay in initiation until after middle school could have considerable cost savings, given the positive association between age at first intercourse and use of contraceptives, and the costs associated with early adolescent pregnancy,” it said.