Risk Profiles of Adolescent Girls Who Were Victims of Dating Violence

By Howard, Donna E.; Wang, Min Qi | Adolescence, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Risk Profiles of Adolescent Girls Who Were Victims of Dating Violence


Howard, Donna E., Wang, Min Qi, Adolescence


The designation of violent and abusive behavior as a U.S. public health priority is evidenced by its inclusion in the Healthy People 2000 and 2010 objectives (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000a, 2000b). Intimate partner violence is an important subdomain of such behavior. Overall, studies indicate that the prevalence of non-sexual courtship violence ranges from 9% to 65%, depending on the definitions and research methods used (Centers for Disease Control, 2000). Moreover, it is now apparent that the reach of relationship violence extends well into the world of adolescence. In acknowledgment of this, a series of Healthy People health status objectives specifically targets physical partner abuse and assault leading to injury among females as young as 12 years of age.

Two probability samples (Silverman, Raj, Mucci, & Hathaway, 2001; Halpern, Oslak, Young, Martin, & Kupper, 2001) and several nonprobability samples (Foshee, Linder, Bauman, Langwick, Arriaga, Health, McMahon, & Bangdiwala, 1996; Jackson & Foshee, 1998; Gray & Foshee, 1997; Foshee, 1996) have provided the basis for what is currently known about the prevalence of adolescent dating violence and some of its psychosocial correlates. The Centers for Disease Control (2000), in summarizing the extent of dating violence in young adults, reported that the average prevalence for high school and college students is 22% and 32% respectively. Recently, Silverman et al. (2001), utilizing Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data from 1997 and 1999, reported that about one in five adolescent high school girls has experienced dating violence. Examining data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, collected during the 1994-95 school year, Halpern et al. (2001) calculated the prevalence of psycholo gical and minor physical violence victimization among 7ththrough 12th-grade adolescents in romantic heterosexual relationships, and found that 32% reported experiencing some kind of violence in dating relationships in the 18 months prior to the interview. While the majority of these reports involved psychological violence, such as swearing, 12% reported physical victimization experiences (e.g., being shoved, having something thrown at them).

In an attempt to establish a theoretical framework for understanding and preventing adolescent dating violence, research has moved forward on several fronts, including a focus on individual and interpersonal influences, as well as ecological contexts such as the home, school, and community (Foshee et al., 1996). A lifespan perspective has led to the examination of developmental histories of youth who report such experiences (Jackson & Foshee, 1998). Behavioral correlates associated with dating violence victimization, among girls at least, include use of a variety of illicit substances, unhealthy weight control practices, sexual risk behaviors, and suicidality (Silverman et al., 2001). Conceptually, a problem behavior model as articulated by Jessor (Jessor, 1982, 1991), Dryfoos (1990), and others (DiClemente, Hansen, & Ponton, 1996; Resnick, Bearman, Blum, Bauman, Harris, Jones, Tabor, Beuhring, Sieving, Shew, Ireland, Bearinger, & Udry, 1997), to account for the apparent clustering of risk behaviors among cer tain adolescents, may be relevant for dating violence as well. While there is debate over whether health risk behavior among adolescents represents a single behavioral syndrome or multidimensional structure, evidence suggests that the co-occurrence of multiple problem behaviors such as substance use, delinquency, and sexual behavior among certain youth (Basen-Engquist, Edmundson, & Parcel, 1996; Farrell, Danish, & Howard, 1992) may have underlying personality and cognitive problem-solving referents (Siegel, Cousins, & Rubovits, 1993). The risk profile of adolescent girls who are victims of dating violence fits this framework; however, the evidence is far from definitive. …

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