Young women’s lived experience of participating in a positive youth development programme: The “Teens & Toddlers” pregnancy prevention intervention

Annik Sorhaindo (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK)
Kirstin Mitchell (Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK)
Adam Fletcher (School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Patricia Jessiman (School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK)
Peter Keogh (Faculty of Health and Social Care, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK)
Chris Bonell (Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Publication date: 6 June 2016



Evaluation of the Teens & Toddlers (T & T) positive youth development (PYD) and teenage pregnancy prevention programme suggested that the intervention had minimal effectiveness partly due to its unclear theory of change. The purpose of this paper is to examine the lived experiences of young women participating in the programme to contribute to a clearer understanding of intervention process and potential mechanisms.


The authors conducted four focus groups (n=20), eight paired or triad interviews (n=12) and 15 interviews with young women participating in an randomized controlled trial of the T & T programme in England, analysing these data using a phenomenological approach.


T & T provided some opportunities to experience the “five Cs” that underpin PYD programme theory: competence, confidence, connection, character and caring. However, the young women did not experience the programme in a way that would consistently develop these characteristics. The lack of opportunities for skill-building and challenge in the activities constrained their ability to build competence and confidence. Some programme facilitators and counsellors were able to achieve connections and caring relationships with the young women, though other adults involved in the programme were sometimes perceived by the participants as overly critical. The character development activities undertaken in the programme addressed attitudes towards sexual risk-taking.


Few studies of the PYD approach examine young people’s perspectives. This research suggests that the young women were not consistently provided with opportunities to achieve youth development within the T & T programmes. In refining the programme, more thought is needed regarding how delivery of particular components may facilitate or impede a PYD experience.



The authors would like to thank the English Department of Education for funding the larger study from which this work was developed, the Teens & Toddlers programme and all the young women who participated in this research.


Sorhaindo, A., Mitchell, K., Fletcher, A., Jessiman, P., Keogh, P. and Bonell, C. (2016), "Young women’s lived experience of participating in a positive youth development programme: The “Teens & Toddlers” pregnancy prevention intervention", Health Education, Vol. 116 No. 4, pp. 356-371.

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