Evidence Based, NREPP Listed

Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0

Relationships & Romance for Teens

Philosophy & Goals

Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0: NREPP Winner

Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0 is a lively 12-lesson evidence-based relationship skills curriculum for teenagers 13-18 years of age.

This new edition is based on the positive results of a five-year, federally funded evaluation conducted by Jennifer Kerpelman, PhD, at Auburn University. As a result of its effectiveness, Relationship Smarts PLUS is listed on the National Registry of Evidence- Based Programs and Practices (NREPP), a service of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

This curriculum embodies an innovative approach that addresses positive youth development, life skills, healthy relationships, dating violence, and pregnancy prevention. These goals, typically addressed in separate programs, are integrated and embedded into one comprehensive healthy relationship skills program.

Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0 builds assets and strengthens protective factors. It appeals to teenagers’ aspirations, rather than merely emphasizing what they must avoid. It empowers youth with skills needed to form and maintain healthy relationships, make wise sexual choices, and work toward their goals.

First Things First Poster

Building Models and Confidence for Healthy Relationships

Many young people today lack models of healthy relationships. A recent Child Trends survey of disadvantaged youth reported that while respondents could list general qualities for healthy relationships, and certainly aspired to have them, when asked if they actually saw many around them, the answer was “no.” Sadly, they had little confidence they would be able to achieve a healthy relationship because they didn’t know how—they didn’t have the skills.

Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0 aims to build confidence and skills. It offers guidance on navigating the world of romantic relationships. Teens learn that healthy relationships begin with the individual— identifying personal strengths and weaknesses, understanding how your past influences the present, and the importance of attending to one’s own growth and development.

Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0 offers knowledge of what a healthy relationship is and isn’t, as well as insights and skills for handling the early chemistry of attraction and choosing partners wisely. Teens learn the building blocks of healthy relationships and are encouraged to identify relationship qualities they find personally important. They are provided principles to guide them in early relationship development.

Frameworks to assess relationships are employed to help teens in relationship decision-making. They are provided a low-risk strategy (Sliding vs. Deciding Model) to guide them in reducing the potential for high-cost consequences of risky behaviors and attachment to problem people.

Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0 builds teens’ awareness of the “red flags” of unhealthy and abusive relationships and ways to exit those relationships safely. Teens are encouraged to set boundaries and practice drawing-the-line-of-respect at the first sign of disrespect in a relationship. Teens learn how to handle breakups and move forward.

Importantly, youth practice a powerful set of evidence-based skills to improve communication and handle conflict, adapted from PREP©, the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program. These skills are critical for all kinds of relationships—romantic, family, peer, and those at school or work.

4 Danger Signs Poster

New Tools for Dating Violence Prevention

Building robust knowledge and skills for healthy relationships provides a positive and proactive way to prevent dating violence.

It is difficult to steer clear, or exit, a destructive relationship if all you see are unhealthy relationships and you have no clue how to build a healthy relationship. The vision-building skills, guides, and decision-making frameworks in Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0 help raise young people’s confidence that they can develop healthy relationships.

A Heart- and Health-based Approach to Pregnancy/STI Prevention

Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0 contains a missing piece in sexual decision-making and pregnancy prevention by addressing relationship issues. For example, can teenagers make wise sexual choices if they:

  • See few models of healthy relationships around them?
  • Know little about the skills needed to build healthy relationships?
  • Have not been engaged in thinking about sexual meaning?

RQ+ Workbook Youth are rarely asked to think about sex beyond the usual health paradigm of reproduction, disease, and risk avoidance. A fundamental assumption of this curriculum is that sexual choices and behavior must be integrated with relationships, emotions, and meaning.

Sex isn’t just about bodies. It’s about the heart, too. Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0 takes a heart- and health-based approach and provides unique ways to tap new sources of motivation to make safer and wiser choices. Sexual decision-making is embedded within an exploration of intimacy and linked to the development of healthy relationships.

7 Principles Poster

Young people have aspirations for connection, affection, respect and love that this program speaks to. Through highly engaging activities, youth are guided to cultivate their own “North Star.” This curriculum encourages teens to develop goals, boundaries, and a context and pace for sexual intimacy that is responsible, protective of their own aspirations in life, and personally meaningful.

Films, music, poetry, and stories are used to inspire and help young people identify their values and develop personal plans. Teens also engage in role-plays on negotiation and refusal skills.

To clarify myths and facts regarding pregnancy, STIs, risks, and protection, medically accurate information is woven into the activities. Additional sexual health resources are suggested and available for purchase from The Dibble Institute upon request.

A New Message on Pregnancy Prevention

Many pregnancy prevention messages focus on a young person’s self-interest, as in how a pregnancy would negatively affect him or her. Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0 takes a different approach. It encourages young people to step outside themselves and look more deeply at the consequences for children of unplanned pregnancy.

By placing the child at center stage, participants see through the eyes of the child the consequences of sliding into an unplanned pregnancy and the “relationship turbulence” that often accompanies it. Examining how an unplanned pregnancy can disadvantage or hurt a child may tap a powerful and positive source of motivation to more consciously plan to prevent a first or subsequent pregnancy.

RQ+ Workbook open

An Activity and Media-based Approach

This curriculum is delivered entirely through activities that are informative, fun, upbeat, and meant to affirm the importance of teen relationship experiences.

Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0 is packed with lively activities that use scenarios written by diverse youth. It incorporates popular music, music videos, film, stories, poetry, drawing, sculpting, and an engaging, interactive workbook that helps teens apply curriculum concepts to their own lives. Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0 appeals equally to males and females.

Parent-Teen Connection activities for each lesson are designed to convey core material to parents or a trusted adult and serve as a catalyst for parent-teen conversations on these very important issues. Parent-teen connectedness has been found to be the strongest protective factor against risky behaviors, even beyond class, race and family structure. These connection activities provide a way to partner with parents or trusted adults and mentors, in helping teens navigate the choppy waters of adolescence.

An Evidence-based Program

Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0 has completed a five-year evaluation involving over 5,000 diverse teenagers in the state of Alabama. Researchers from Auburn University conducting the study report sustained gains over time.

Findings include increases in students’ realistic understanding of relationships and decreases in faulty relationship beliefs, broadened understanding of relationship aggression, and declines in aggression in relationships as compared to those in control groups. Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0 is now listed as on the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP), a service of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Standards Correlations

Relationship Smarts PLUS 3.0 has been correlated with the national curriculum standards for Family and Consumer Sciences, Health Education, and Sexuality Education.