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AHRU New Publications

A growing interest has emerged in understanding and researching topics such as substance use, sexual practices and violence. Yet, research ethics committees are always having to evaluate the risks and benefits of researching 'sensitive' topics such as violence and abuse. In a recent publication by Tracy McClinton Appollis and members of the Adolescent Health Research Unit, understanding adolescents harms, benefits and regrets was explored when participating in research about abuse and intimate partner violence. The paper published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence found "that research participation was more likely to have a positive rather than a negative emotional impact on young adolescents and that relatively few regretted participating. Victims and perpetrators of abuse were more likely to report benefits than harms, supporting the ethical appropriateness of ongoing research on abuse and violence."  The authors have also "recommend[ed] that further research is required to clarify and standardize terminology and instruments to quantify these kinds of evaluations, including measurement of the severity and intensity of reported benefits, harms and regrets, and the longer term impact of participation in sensitive research."  The manuscript can be accessed by clicking here.



The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is a screening tool that has been translated into numerous languages across the globe. The tool was developed by UK psychiatrist Robert Goodman and is considered a valid tool for the screening of emotional and behavioural problems in children and adolescents. Prof Petrus de Vries and his colleagues in the Adolescent Health Research Unit (AHRU) have recently looked at the psychometric properties of the SDQ self-report in South Africa.

According to the researchers’ knowledge there has previously been only one other study in sub-Saharan Africa to examine population means of the SDQ self-report. In a recent paper published in Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, Prof de Vries and his colleagues examined the internal consistencies, compared gender differences and the psychometric properties of the SDQ self-report in South Africa and compared it to available data in UK, Australian and Chinese samples. To access the full-text of the manuscript click here.


Professor Cathy Mathews and Dr Amanda Mason-Jones, from the Adolescent Health Research Unit, have recently published a Cochrane review that examined school-based interventions for preventing HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy in adolescents. The review examined whether school-based interventions prevent HIV, sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy? The data in the review came from more than 55 000 adolescents across Europe, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. The review highlighted that sex education is failing to delay sexual activity and reduce sexual transmitted infections among adolescents.


The manuscript can be accessed by clicking here.


Promoting sexual and reproductive health among adolescents in southern and eastern Africa - Mobilising schools, parents and communities (Acronym: PREPARE) is one of the research projects of the Adolescent Health Research Unit (AHRU) funded by the EC Health Research Programme.


Professor Mathews, PREPARE: Cape Town Principle Investigator, recently published a paper in AIDS and Behaviour that looked at the effects of the PREPARE programme on adolescent sexual risk behaviour and intimate partner violence. A closer look at abstinence among adolescents in the Western Cape, South Africa was also examined in another paper by Professor Mathews, Tracy McClinton Appollis and colleagues published in AIDS and Behaviour. In addition, Dr Mason-Jones and her colleagues examined the role of gender, socioeconomic factors and the school environment on intimate partner violence in early adolescence, which was published in the South African Medical Journal.


The paper by Professor Mathews' and her colleagues' abstract read:

"Young South Africans, especially women, are at high risk of HIV. We evaluated the effects of PREPARE, a multi-component, school-based HIV prevention intervention to delay sexual debut, increase condom use and decrease intimate partner violence (IPV) among young adolescents. We conducted a cluster RCT among Grade eights in 42 high schools. The intervention comprised education sessions, a school health service and a school sexual violence prevention programme. Participants completed questionnaires at baseline, 6 and 12 months. Regression was undertaken to provide ORs or coefficients adjusted for clustering. Of 6244 sampled adolescents, 55.3 % participated. At 12 months there were no differences between intervention and control arms in sexual risk behaviours. Participants in the intervention arm were less likely to report IPV victimisation (35.1 vs. 40.9 %; OR 0.77, 95 % CI 0.61–0.99; t(40) = 2.14) suggesting the intervention shaped intimate partnerships into safer ones, potentially lowering the risk for HIV."


The manuscript can be accessed via AIDS and Behaviour's First Online Option by clicking here.


The paper published by Professor Mathews, Tracy McClinton Appollis and their colleagues highlights that the most effective behaviours in HIV prevention is condom use and abstinence. Condom use has been studied extensively, particularly in sub-Saharan Africe, yet abstinence has been examined less frequently. The recently published paper highlights the role of socio-cognitive factors in abstinence among young people.


The manuscript can be accessed via AIDS and Behaviour's First Online Option by clicking here.




The paper by Dr Mason-Jones and her colleagues highlighted the prevalence of physical and sexual intimate partner violence among adolescents in South Africa. The school environment was also considered as an important factor that should be considered when developing future preventative interventions. This paper can be accessed via the South African Medical Journal's website by clicking here.






Recent publications

Eggers, S. M., Aarø, L. E., Bos, A. E., Mathews, C., Kaaya, S. F., Onya, H., & de Vries, H. (2016). Sociocognitive predictors of condom use and intentions among adolescents in three sub-Saharan sites. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45(2), 353-365.


Mathews, C., Eggers, S. M., de Vries, P. J., Mason-Jones, A. J., Townsend, L., Aarø, L. E., & de Vries, H. (2015). Reaching the hard to reach: Longitudinal investigation of adolescents’ attendance at an after-school sexual and reproductive health programme in Western Cape, South Africa. BMC Public Health, 15(1), 1.


Wubs, A. G., Aarø, L. E., Kaaya, S., Onya, H., & Mathews, C. (2015). Social Cognition Variables and Victimisation as Predictors of Sexual Debut Among Adolescents in South Africa and Tanzania: A Multi-group SEM Analysis. AIDS and Behaviour, 19(12), 2141-2151.


Aarø, L. E., Mathews, C., Kaaya, S., Katahoire, A. R., Onya, H., Abraham, C., ... & de Vries, H. (2014). Promoting sexual and reproductive health among adolescents in southern and eastern Africa (PREPARE): Project design and conceptual framework. BMC Public Health, 14(1), 1.


A comprehensive list of all publications published by the Adolescent Health Research Unit can be searched by author by clicking here.

A comprehensive list of all previous publications published by the Unit between 2009-2014 can be accessed here.