Copyright 2023 Marline E. Pearson
An Evidence-Based Program
Relationship Smarts PLUS has completed a five-year evaluation involving over 9,000 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.4
This new edition is based on the positive results of a five-year, federally-funded evaluation conducted
by Jennifer Kerpelman, Ph.D., at Auburn University. As a result of its effectiveness, Relationship Smarts
PLUS was listed on the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP), a
service of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).4
Love Notes, developed by the same author, is an adaptation of Relationship Smarts PLUS for older youth
and contains most of the same concepts. It is notable that Love Notes was put on the HHS Office of
Adolescent Health’s (OAH) list of Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs as a result
of a federally funded, 5-year random control trial conducted by researchers at the University of
Louisville. Those participating in Love Notes were 46% less likely to have a pregnancy as compared
to those in the control group. It also achieved four other outcomes: a greater number who remained
abstinent, less recent sexual activity, and less frequency of sexual activity, and for those who chose to
be sexually active, an increased use of contraception and condoms. These outcomes are impressive,
especially so since the target audience for the study was vulnerable teens. 21% had been or were in
and out of home care, 82% were low income, 16.6% were LGBTQ, 9.3% were refugees, and 88% were
African American.5
Standards Correlations
Relationship Smarts PLUS has been correlated with the national curriculum standards for Family
and Consumer Sciences, Health Education, and Sexuality Education. To help with lesson plan
development, you can download the standards at
1 Child Trends Research Brief (October 2009) Telling It Like It Is: Teen Perspectives on Romantic Relationships.
2 For research and more information on PREP see
3 ADD Health Study (The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health). For information, go to cpc.unc.
4 For more information on the Relationship Smarts PLUS study (principal investigator Dr. Jennifer Kerpelman,
Auburn University), see
5 Barbee, A. P., Cunningham, M. R., van Zyl, M. A., Antle, B. F., &Langley, C. N. (2016). Impact of Two
Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Interventions on Risky Sexual Behavior: A Three-Arm Cluster
Randomized Control Trial. American Journal of Public Health, 106(Suppl 1), S85–S90.
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