Adolescent Middle School Collaborative

Academic Co-Lead: Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD, FSAHM, Medical Director, Community and Population Health, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Community Co-Lead: Vanessa Mayers-Snyder, MSW

Community Co-Lead: Felicia Savage Friedman, M.ED, E-RYT 500, Founder & CEO, YogaRoots On Location, LLC

Teen dating abuse is a public health concern and survivors have higher rates of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, eating disorders, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and poor academic outcomes.

The Expect Respect program intervention works with middle school students on violence prevention. We do this by helping students to develop skills in communication, making informed choices, recognizing abuse, positive relationship building, and becoming active proponents for safe and healthy relationships. Expect Respect is a theory and research-informed program intended to alter norms that condone violence and maintain rigid gender expectations that foster violence perpetration. Throughout the 24-session research-informed program, messaging centers on choosing equality and respect.  We use gender-specific support groups, working with youth who have a prior history of exposure to violence including witnessing domestic violence, loss of loved one to homicide, dating and sexual violence. We also strive to promote teen leadership to strengthen the culture of non-violence.

We were funded by the CDC to evaluate the effectiveness of this curriculum with students in area middle schools, which was unfortunately interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have since received additional funding from the All State Foundation as well as funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to support adolescent mental health and well-being;  these funds support us to continue to identify the best strategies for implementing the Expect Respect program with our area schools and students. 

Expect Respect is implemented by trained facilitators from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work master’s program and has been offered in almost forty middle schools across Western Pennsylvania. Once we’re partnered with a school, the administrators, teachers, and support staff refer students to participate. Data collection includes student surveys, program delivery observation, interviews, and focus groups. Community facilitators who work alongside the social work students provide valuable context and information that help to approach students holistically and tailor the engagement to meet the needs of each unique school community.

“In the Expect Respect program, students are arriving with different values and beliefs and have been great at producing activities to engage the participants. Students have done creative things, putting together books to write affirmations, and are learning a lot about communities they are serving. “     – Community Facilitator

Publications, Adolescent Collaborative

Adolescent Health Collaborative

  1. Rankine J, Fuhrman B, Copperman E, Miller E, Culyba A. School absenteeism among middle school students with high exposure to violence. Academic pediatrics. 2022 Nov 1;22(8):1300-8.
  2. Hill AL, Miller E, Switzer GE, Abebe KZ, Chang JC, Pulerwitz J, Brush LD, Hill AV. Gender equitable attitudes among adolescents: A validation study and associations with sexual health behaviors. Adolescent Research Review. 2021 Sep 7:1-4.
  3. Hill AV, Mistry S, Paglisotti TE, Dwarakanath N, Lavage DR, Hill AL, Iwuanyanwu R, Stokes LR, Jones KA, Miller E. Assessing feasibility of an adolescent relationship abuse prevention program for girls. Journal of Adolescence. 2022 Apr;94(3):333-53.
  4. Fuhrman BJ, Copperman E, Risser L, Souza J, McFeaters C, Xie CX, et al. Randomized Cluster Trial of the Expect Respect Program as a School-Based Intervention to Prevent Violence among Early Adolescents. In Draft. Targeted journal: Clinical Trials.
  5. Fuhrman BJ, Copperman E, Risser L, Souza J, McFeaters C, Xie CX, et al. Rationale and design adjustments for a school-based violence prevention program in early adolescence during the COVID-19 pandemic: the Expect Respect Intervention Trial.  In Draft. Targeted journal: Clinical Trials

Explore additional TPS publications here.