Methods: The study uses a cluster-randomized experimental design with one treatment arm (Aflateen Plus) and one control arm. To avoid cross-arm contamination, randomization was conducted at the school level. All public schools in the Mastcho and Hisor districts (total of 60 schools) were randomly assigned to the treatment arm (32 schools) or the control arm (28 schools).
All adolescent girls enrolled in these schools were eligible for participation in the study if they met the following inclusion criteria: (1) marital status of not being married; (2) not being pregnant and/or not having a child; (3) living with parents; and (4) having a date of birth between 21 May 1994 and 19 November 1998. In each school, the study participants were randomly selected from the pool of all eligible adolescent girls.
A total of 1,221 girls were recruited for participation in the study (n=662 in the treatment group, and n=559 in the control group). All participants in schools assigned to treatment arm received treatment. All participants in schools assigned to control group did not receive any treatment.
Using repeated measures data from a cluster-randomized experimental study, we ran multilevel random-intercept mixed-effects models to account for both within-individual correlation over time and clustering of subjects within schools.
Results: We found that, because of participation in the non-formal educational intervention called Aflateen Plus, adolescent girls in the treatment group were more likely to plan ahead, compared with their control group counterparts. However, the intervention did not significantly improve any other measure of girls’ future orientation. We also found no significant effect of the intervention on adolescent’s self-efficacy.
Furthermore, Initial results suggested that the intervention might have improved girls’ internal locus of control. The improvement in adolescent girls’ locus of control is important in Tajikistan, given the dominance of social beliefs that individual lives are controlled by external factors and powerful others, and, therefore, outcomes are determined by non-behavioral factors. However, the statistical significance of the results disappeared when using robust standard errors – thus calling into question the reliability of initial findings.
Conclusions and Implications: Our study contributes to the global youth development agenda by suggesting that non-formal experiential educational programs may not be the most effective way to change adolescents’ psychosocial outcomes. Integrated interventions involving all components of young person’s ecosystem (i.e. family, school, community) might be more effective in affecting youth agency.