Wise Guys Programs Help Teens Find Courage To Resist Pressure
Children’s Home Society of North Carolina
Many teen pregnancy prevention programs target girls, but what about the guys? What program exists to help teenage boys find the courage to resist peer pressure?
Enter the Wise Guys healthy relationships and teen pregnancy prevention program. The Foundation for a Healthy High Point provided funding from January 2016 through July 2021 to support the implementation of Wise Guys in Greater High Point by the Children’s Home Society (CHS).
A 9th-grade student who recently participated in the program said Wise Guys “really helped reassure me that it was okay to wait to have sex. I’d felt pressure to ‘man up.’ Hearing how other guys have to deal with this pressure to be a man and have sex really helped me see that I was not alone. It’s more manly to wait until I am ready and when she is ready too.”
Developed in 1990, the Wise Guys program has been refined over the last 30 years based on research on male teen development, including how teen boys process information and develop attitudes, behaviors, and best practices in pregnancy prevention. It addresses reproductive anatomy and pregnancy, contraception, abstinence, toxic masculinity, consent, healthy relationships, values, and decision-making.
Delaying pregnancy and parenthood until adulthood increases the likelihood of healthier babies, improved early developmental outcomes, and higher educational attainment for teens. Only 53% of teen mothers complete high school or equivalent, and children are nine times more likely to live in poverty if their mother does not graduate from high school. Interventions to change teens’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors to prevent pregnancy have long-lasting impacts on individuals and communities.
According to CHS staff, while our area’s overall pregnancy rate has decreased over time, racial disparities exist—with Black teens having a pregnancy rate 3.5 times higher than white teens. Notably, teens in High Point’s 27260 zip code have a very high teen pregnancy rate and increased rates of sexually transmitted infections.
Over 8-12 weekly group sessions in schools or community settings, Wise Guys facilitators conduct guided conversations and interactive activities to improve knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to healthy masculinity and relationships. The program is aligned with National Health Education Standards for grades 6-12 and supplements middle and high school health education courses. Wise Guys fills a gap in teen boys’ developmentally appropriate health and sex education.
|Nearly 1,500 young men in High Point have participated in Wise Guys since 2016:88% report increasing or maintaining positive male attitudes of responsibility and respect for women.83% report they increased communication with their parents about sex and relationships.82% report they increased their knowledge of sexuality and sexually transmitted infections.80% who were already sexually active at program entry report they increased or maintained condom use.
Funding from the Foundation enabled CHS to leverage a matching grant from the Department of Public Health-NC DHHS Teen Pregnancy Prevention initiatives for services provided in High Point. The Beacon Foundation and participating Greater High Point schools provided additional support for the program.
Children’s Home Society offers free training for community agencies interested in delivering the Wise Guys program to their own clients. For more info, email Ted Sikes.