Learning Collaborative Measurement Project Summaries
Project summary
4 February 2021

Comprehensive sexuality education for intimate partner violence prevention among young people in Mexico City

Author: Rebecca Justus
Published by: The Learning Collaborative to Advance Normative Change

Organizations involved

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Fundación Mexicana para la Planeación Familiar (Mexfam); International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR)

Summary

Comprehensive sexuality education may help prevent intimate partner violence, but few evaluations of sexuality education courses have measured this. This study explored how encouraging critical reflection of gendered social norms might help to prevent partner violence among young people (14 to 17 years old) in Mexico. A longitudinal quasi-experimental study was conducted in 2017 and 2018 at a state-run technical secondary school in Tlalpan, an area in the south of Mexico City, Mexico with data collection including in-depth interviews, repeat interviews, direct observation, and focus group discussions with students, teachers, and health educators.

Social norms of interest

Acceptability of intimate partner violence; gender norms; acceptability of sexual diversity; roles within romantic relationships

Behaviors of interest

Care-seeking behavior for sexual and reproductive health including intimate partner violence; reduction in excessive jealousy and controlling behaviors; assertive communication in romantic relationships; leaving violent or non-equitable relationships.

Project components

Twenty total hours of a manual-based curriculum that included an empowerment and gender-transformative approach that emphasized IPV prevention by promoting critical thinking around power dynamics within relationships. Gender was a cross-cutting theme, and topics included sexuality, sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancy, violence, and relationship skills, in addition to information on where and how to access health services. The curriculum used multiple participatory techniques to reinforce key course messages, particularly those related to gender and IPV, through self-reflection and group discussion; delivered by health educators aged 30 or younger in weekly sessions over a school semester to groups of around 20 participants aged 14 to 17.

Social norms measurement

Information was gathered about social norms primarily using qualitative data collection methods: one-off in-depth interviews, repeat interviews, and focus group discussions. Using these methods, participants were asked about their beliefs regarding IPV, relationships, and gender, and about their perceptions of the beliefs and behaviors of their peers. A social complex adaptive systems approach was applied to in-depth interview data to examine the social norms in terms of acceptable forms of speaking about gender and violence within intervention groups. Finally, items from the Gender-Equitable Men scale were adapted for inclusion in a baseline and endline questionnaire that addressed gender norms and social norms about the acceptability of different types of intimate partner violence.

Key findings to date

Four elements were identified that seemed crucial to preventing partner violence. First, encouraging participants’ reflection about romantic relationships, which helped them question whether jealousy and possessive behaviors are signs of love; second, helping them develop skills to communicate about sexuality, inequitable relationships, and reproductive health; third, encouraging care-seeking behavior; and fourth, ad- dressing norms around gender and sexuality, for example demystifying and decreasing discrimination towards sexually diverse populations. Participants shifted their understandings of jealousy, possessive behavior, and other forms of IPV; reconsidered their beliefs about acceptable and healthy behaviors in a relationship; communicated course learnings about IPV to their intimate partners; and identified and managed the harmful behaviors in their own relationship to construct more positive relationship dynamics. This gender-transformative intervention appeared to disrupt pervasive gender norms and reshape beliefs about how to engage in relationships.

Attribution statement

This study was conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Mexfam, and IPPF/WHR and funded by IPPF/WHR through a private donor and by the SVRI WBG Development Marketplace Award 2019. Policy briefs, blogs, and peer-reviewed publications are also available.

Further general project information is available on the SVRI website. Please contact Shelly Makleff for further information via her website.

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