The Evidence Portal


About the program

STAR LO embeds theatre performances within a classroom-based curriculum, using professional young adult actor/educators as teachers. It is designed to be delivered to early adolescents before they begin sexual experimentation, with the message that they have the ability to set their own limits within physical or romantic situations, choose to abstain from sexual activity, and communicate their sexual questions and concerns with parents and other adults.

The main goal of the STAR LO program is to affect antecedents of sexual activity (intention to have sex, attitudes to teen pregnancy, knowledge of sexual risks etc) among urban early adolescents.

Who does it work for?

STAR LO is designed for primary school students aged 10-12 years in early adolescence. STAR LO has only been evaluated in the USA. A quasi-experimental design study (Lieberman et. al, 2012) was conducted with 1143 participants.

Study participants were aged 10-12 years, and were 11 years old on average. Participants were mostly Latino (37%) and just over half of participants were female (53%)

STAR LO has not been evaluated in Australia or with Aboriginal Australians.

What outcomes does it contribute to?

Positive outcomes:

  • STAR LO participants who were female reported a decreased desire to be a teen parent
  • STAR LO participants were more likely to report pro-abstinence attitudes.
  • STAR LO participants were less likely to report intention to have sex
  • STAR LO participants were more likely to report later intended timing of first sex and intention to wait until marriage

No Effect:

  • STAR LO participants who were male showed no change in desire to become a teen parent
  • STAR LO participants reported no changes in self-efficacy
  • STAR LO participants reported no changes in parent-child communication

How effective is it?

Overall, STAR LO had a mixed effect on client outcomes.

How strong is the evidence?

Promising research evidence:

  • At least one high-quality randomised controlled trial (RCT)/quasi-experimental design (QED) study reports statistically significant positive effects for at least one outcome, AND
  • Fewer RCT/QED studies of similar size and quality show no observed effects than show statistically significant positive effects, AND
  • No RCT/QED studies show statistically significant adverse effects.

How is it implemented?

STAR LO embeds theatre performances within a classroom-based curriculum using professional young adult actor/educators as teachers. The program is delivered across 8 sessions over 10 – 12 weeks in a school setting. Professional actor-educators portray characters, each with a personality, life circumstances, and choices that mirror those of young adolescents with respect to sexuality. The professional actor-educator adults remain in character after the performance and interact with the students, portraying peer role models.

The characters, using planned and rehearsed short theatre pieces or vignettes, focus on various topics including:

  • Building confidence
  • Setting goals (which include delaying sexual activity)
  • Increasing self-efficacy in (sexual) refusal skills
  • Improving knowledge about puberty, sex, pregnancy, and STI prevention
  • Facilitating decision making around setting physical boundaries and limits
  • Encouraging communication with parents about these topics.

How much does it cost?

The costs for STAR LO were not reported in the study.

What else should I consider?

STAR LO actors receive intensive training in adolescent development, sexuality and classroom facilitation over a summer and at least 8 hours of training per week throughout the school year.

Where does the evidence come from?

1 QED conducted in the USA with a sample of 1143 people (Lieberman et. al, 2012).

Further resources

Lieberman, LD, Berlin, C, Palen, LA, & Ashley, OS 2012, ‘A theater-based approach to primary prevention of sexual behavior for early adolescents,’ The Journal of Early Adolescence, vol. 32, pp. 730-753, DOI 10.1177/0272431611424726.

Last updated:

09 Dec 2022

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