Psychosocial Correlates of Dating Violence Victimization among Latino Youth

Article excerpt

A growing literature attests to the fact that dating violence is an important public health problem (Howard & Wang, 2003a,b; Silverman, Raj, Mucci, & Hathaway, 2001; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000a,b; Centers for Disease Control, 2000). Data from the most recent national Youth Risk Behavior Survey of high school students indicate that approximately 10% had been hit, slapped or hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend over the previous year (Centers for Disease Control, 2002).

Available national data also suggest a clustering of problem behaviors and other risk indicators among adolescents who experience dating violence; that is, adolescents who report sad/hopeless or depressed feelings, poorer self-esteem, substance use, multiple sex partners, and unprotected sex are more likely to report being a victim of dating violence (Ackard, Neumark-Satainer, & Hannah, 2003; Howard & Wang, 2003a,b; Silverman, Raj, Mucci, & Hathaway, 2001). Elsewhere, among largely urban minority youth, Howard et al. found religious service attendance and perceptions of high parental monitoring to be associated with fewer reports of dating violence (Howard, Yue, & Boekeloo, 2003).

When national data are examined by ethnicity, Hispanic girls appear more likely to report dating violence victimization than their peers (Howard & Wang, 2003; Centers for Disease Control, 2002). Despite this, there is little information on the experience of dating violence victimization among Latino youth. Clearly, more needs to be learned about the correlates of dating violence among various ethnic groups in order to support the development of culturally sensitive prevention and intervention efforts.

There is also a great deal to learn about the correlates of dating violence among male and female Latino youth. In addition to the correlates they share in common, there may be important gender differences in the risk profiles associated with dating violence. Among U.S. girls, dating violence has been associated with binge drinking and cocaine or inhalant use, whereas among boys, attempted suicide and fighting is linked to dating violence (Howard & Wang, 2003a,b).

There were several primary aims of the present study. First, we examined whether there was a clustering of problem behaviors among Latino youth who reported dating violence. It was hypothesized that Latino youth who reported engagement in a host of risk behaviors would be more likely to report being a victim of physical dating violence. Second, the study assessed whether certain personal and familial factors were associated with decreased likelihood of dating violence. It was hypothesized that youth who had a good sense of self, were engaged in religious or community activities, and perceived strong parental monitoring or family connectedness would be less likely to report dating violence. Finally, the study examined whether there were gender differences in the risk profiles of Latino youth who reported dating violence. While most research and intervention efforts to date have focused on girls as victims (Silverman, Raj, Mucci, & Hathaway, 2001; Harned, 2001; Bennett & Fineran, 1998; Molidor & Tolman, 1998; Lane & Gwartney-Gibbs, 1985; Gelles, 1981), the experience of physical dating violence among boys may be a more serious problem than has previously been recognized (Howard & Wang, 2003; Hyman, 1999). If indeed, dating during adolescence is preparation for adult relationships and the patterns learned early become habituated, then such investigations must begin now (Hyman, 1999; O'Leary, Barling, Arias, Rosenbaum, Malone, & Tyree, 1989; Torrey & Lee, 1987). Further, as argued by Foshee (1996), the traditional approach to dating violence prevention, which focuses on males as perpetrators and females as victims may be not only inappropriate but also lacking in conceptual clarity. Thus, the stratified analyses were expected to provide useful information for tailoring preventive interventions. …