Date SMART: With $443,000 NIH grant, Rowan psychologist seeks to help teen moms avoid dating violence, risky sexual behavior

January 6, 2020. Rowan Today from Rowan University.

Teen moms face endless obstacles. To Dr. Meredith Joppa, clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Rowan University, the high rate of dating violence is among the most worrisome.

“Adolescent mothers are at elevated risk for dating violence, rapid repeat pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV,” Joppa explained. The negative health outcomes of dating violence can affect these young women–and their children who grow up surrounded by it–for a lifetime, Joppa noted.

The odds are stacked against teen moms, but Joppa and her colleagues know that more could be done to change the equation. Their evidence-based Date SMART-Young Mothers Intervention Program recently secured a $443,688 Academic Research Enhancement Award (R15 AREA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“Having the time and funding to really do this work in the most rigorous and community-informed way allows us to directly impact the lives of young moms and their families,” said Joppa, who has been studying adolescent relationships, sexual behavior and dating violence for 13 years and been working on different iterations of this project since 2011.

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