New Study Looks at Link Between Developmental Assets and Adolescent Reproductive Health in Ugandan Youth

Developmental Assets and Sexual and Reproductive Health among 10 to 14 Year Olds in Uganda

A ground-breaking study of almost 1,000 young adolescents in northern Uganda finds that knowledge of sexual and reproductive health is related to higher levels of Developmental Assets, or critical supports and social-emotional strengths in young people's lives. This study is the first to correlate Developmental Assets with sexual and reproductive health in developing countries.

"The results are similar to what we've found with U.S. adolescents," notes Peter C. Scales, Ph.D., Senior Fellow at Search Institute, who was Principal Investigator on the study. "The effect of Developmental Assets levels can translate into consequential differences in the sexual and reproductive health of these very young adolescents."

The study, Developmental Assets and Sexual and Reproductive Health among 10 to 14 Year Olds in Uganda, was conducted by Search Institute and the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University, with financial support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Search Institute's work on the project was done by Peter C. Scales, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, and Maura Shramko, M.P.P., Research Associate.

A total of 941 young people in the Gulu district in northern Uganda completed the Developmental Assets Profile in June 2014, answering questions related to relationships, opportunities, values, skills, self-perceptions, gender attitudes, puberty, ability to access sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, condom knowledge, and intention to delay sex and use a condom at first sex.

Among the findings, researchers discovered that young people with higher levels of Developmental Assets had

  • more accurate knowledge about puberty
  • more accurate knowledge about HIV risk
  • more ability to access SRH services
  • more supportive relationships in which they could talk about feelings and what happens during puberty, and
  • lower intentions to engage in risky sexual behavior

Experts agree that early adolescence—ages 10 to 14—is a critical time in young people's lives because exposure to risk-taking behavior increases. Fortunately, prevention efforts can be especially effective with this age group. The discoveries of this study can help inform more effective youth health programming and interventions.

"The study joins a growing body of research in different cultures, particularly in developing countries, that reinforce the value of a strength-based, holistic approach to working with young people," says Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, Ph.D., Search Institute's Vice President of Research and Development. "By using a survey instrument that has been validated in multiple languages and cultures, we can begin to tell a larger story about the strengths of young people around the world."

Although this study's findings must be replicated in a longitudinal study to reach cause-effect conclusions, the report notes, "…our findings suggest a potential utility for promoting positive relationships and opportunities for youth, as well as promoting positive commitments to learning and a variety of social competencies and values, as a strategy for promoting SRH among very young adolescents in a developing country setting."

Download the Study Report >>

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Publish Date: 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

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