The Growing Together program of Girls Inc.,


Girls Inc. is a national youth organization dedicated to helping girls achieve their full potential as human beings. Since 1981, Girls Inc. has been on record as supporting age-appropriate sexuality education and, in the late 1980s, developed a series of programs on Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy for young women aged 9-18.


Carpinteria, California and other sites, United States of America

Problem Overview:

Unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmissible infections among youth.

Helping youth avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmissible infections is a challenge that faces communities around the world. Children having children is a problem with dire consequences for both the young people themselves and for society as a whole. Young people with children have sharply reduced education and employment opportunities and a poorer quality of life. Meeting their needs places a severe burden on both families and public resources. Moreover, sexually active teens are at great risk of contracting AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.


Effective parent-child communication and early intervention are two very important factors in preventing teen pregnancy, yet few programs have been developed that meet these needs. A notable exception is the Growing Together program of Girls Incorporated. Formerly Girls Clubs of America, Girls Inc. is a national youth organization dedicated to helping girls achieve their full potential as human beings. Since 1981, Girls Inc. has been on record as supporting age-appropriate sexuality education and, in the late 1980s, developed a series of programs on Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy for young women aged 9-18.

One of these programs, Growing Together, focuses specifically on pre-teens and their parents. Like all of the Girls Inc. programs, Growing Together is based on extensive research, including studies suggesting that intervention aimed at fostering more effective parent-child (especially mother-daughter) communication around sexuality issues can help to decrease adolescent pregnancy, both by delaying the onset of sexual activity and by encouraging contraceptive use. Other studies have shown that the peak period for acquiring sexual information is the pre-teen years and that 80% of all sexual information is learned by age 13. Almost half of teens in the 10th grade and about one third in the 8th grade reported having had sexual intercourse, according to a 1995 survey. As one former project manager at Girls Inc. put it, "The lessons have to start early, preferably by age 9."

When it was developed in 1985, Growing Together offered a series of workshops in which girls aged 12-14 and their mothers and, although less often, fathers or other significant adults practiced communicating about a variety of issues, particularly sex and sexuality. The workshops were conducted as five two-hour sessions led by a trained facilitator. The first session was for adults only, giving parents a chance to feel comfortable with the facilitator and each other and reassuring them about their competence to discuss sexuality issues with their children. The remaining sessions covered such topics as reproductive anatomy, physical and emotional aspects of puberty, accurate information about pregnancy, and "acceptable" types of dating. Interactive exercises included role playing and discussions, with parents and daughters participating as individuals or as teams.

The Growing Together program has now been adapted for younger girls aged 9-11. This change was made to help girls and their parents establish good communication skills at an early stage so that they are prepared to continue their discussions of sex and sexuality as the girls negotiate the personal and social challenges of adolescence.

Some local chapters of Girls Inc. have made additional modifications to the program to meet their particular needs. This is true at Girls Inc. of Carpinteria, a southern California community located ten miles south of Santa Barbara. Begun in the mid-1970's, the organization has grown from a small house providing day care services to an impressive 16,000 square-foot facility offering a wide range of exciting programs to empower young women to overcome the barriers to their success. Here teens and pre-teens are able to participate in pregnancy prevention workshops, career readiness and entrepreneurial training programs, science, math and technology explorations, leadership development opportunities, and team and individual sports. This vibrant activity center is a testament to the community's support for its important role in assisting young women with their personal growth.

The Growing Together program of Girls Inc. of Carpinteria has been expanded to include classes for boys and fathers as well as co-ed classes for boys, girls and parents. It is also being offered in Spanish for the benefit of the community's large Latino population. Over the years, the format has been revised to meet the needs of the area's families. Local experience has shown that: 1) fewer, longer sessions increase the bonding of the group as well as the involvement and learning of individual participants, 2) the mother-daughter pairs often have such good relationships that some of the preliminary, warm-up activities are not necessary, and 3) parents are more willing to sign up for classes with fewer sessions. Thus, the program has evolved into a shorter version of the original that meets the needs of the local community without sacrificing its primary objectives. "Evaluations from students, teachers and facilitators show it to be an exemplary puberty program," says its coordinator, Sura Hart.

Girls Inc. of Carpinteria has earned more national awards for programming excellence than any other affiliate in the national organization's 50-year history.

To inquire about other sites where the Growing Together program is being offered, please contact Bernice Humphrey at the Girls Inc. National Resource Center as noted above.


Over 29,000 girls have participated in the Growing Together program since its inception. In 1996, the program was being offered at 55 sites throughout the United States serving approximately 5,500 girls annually. An valuation of the national program released in 1991 showed that girls who participated in Growing Together were less than half as likely as non-participants to have sexual intercourse before the age of fourteen.


The national Growing Together program has been reviewed in several articles and reports, including:

"Abstinence-only" curricula without the fear (1997).
SIECUS Report, 25(4), 22. Brown, S.S. & Eisenberg, L. (1995).
The best intentions: Unintended pregnancy and the well-being of children and families. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Postrado, L.T. & Nicholson, H.J. (1992).
Effectiveness in delaying the initiation of sexual intercourse of girls aged 12-14: Two components of the Girls Incorporated Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy program. Youth and Society, 23, 356-379. Postrado, L.T., Weiss, F.L. & Nicholson, H.J. (1997).
Prevention of sexual intercourse for teen women aged 12 to 14. The Prevention Researcher, 4(1), 10-12.

The Growing Together program at Girls Inc. of Carpinteria will be featured in a one-hour television documentary and home video, SENSIBLE SEX: Reducing Teen Risk, being produced by HORIZON International.


Girls Inc. of Carpinteria
Bernice Humphrey
Girls, Inc. National Resource Center

Contacts and Submitted by:

Sura Hart
Girls Inc. of Carpinteria
Tel: 1-805-684-6364 (ext. 14)
Fax: 1-805-566-3425
5315 Foothill Road
Carpenteria, CA 93013

Bernice Humphrey
Director, Healthy Girls Initiative
Girls, Inc. National Resource Center
Tel: 1-317-634-7546 ext. 24
Fax: 1-317-634-3024
441 West Michigan Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202-3287
United States of America

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