Psychosocial Factors Associated with Adolescent Boys' Reports of Dating Violence

By Howard, Donna E.; Wang, Min Qi | Adolescence, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview
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Psychosocial Factors Associated with Adolescent Boys' Reports of Dating Violence


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


While dating violence among adolescents has received increased attention, the focus has been largely on the potential for physical and psychological harm to girls (Silverman, Raj, Mucci, & Hathaway, 2001; Gelles, 1981; Lane & Gwartney-Gibbs, 1985; Harned, 2001; Bennett & Fineran, 1998; Molidor & Tolman, 1998). To the extent that dating violence among adolescent boys has been examined, interest has been mostly in their role as perpetrators, with such behavior representing, perhaps, one facet of a more generalized tendency to engage in antisocial activities, aggression, and intimidation (Halpern, Oslak, Young, Martin, & Kupper, 2001; Makepeace, 1981; Hyman, 1999), or a maladaptive conflict resolution style (Foshee, Linder, Bauman, Langwick, Arriaga, Health, McMahon, & Bangdiwala, 1996). Data on the psychosocial factors associated with reports of dating violence among adolescent boys are limited (Hyman, 1999). However, a number of studies have reported substantial prevalence rates for psychological and physical victimization among boys (Halpern et al., 2001; Jezl, Molidor, & Wright, 1996; Stets & Henderson, 1991; Foshee, 1996; Capaldi & Clark, 1998), even after controlling for violence perpetrated by girls in self-defense (Foshee, 1996; Malik, Sorenson, & Aneshensel, 1997). Further, boys may be less likely to report violent interactions with intimate partners, and thus these rates may represent an underestimate of such experiences (Hyman, 1999; Wekerle & Wolfe, 1999).

In those studies which have examined the relationship between gender and dating violence, several risk factors have been found for boys. For example, physical dating violence among adolescent boys is associated with same-gender sexual partners, forced sex, and having been threatened with physical violence (Wekerle & Wolfe, 1999). In addition, adolescent males who date someone older, rather than the same age or younger, are more likely to experience dating violence (Foshee, 1996). Nevertheless, a comprehensive profile of boys who report physical dating violence would fill a gap in the literature and is important for several reasons. First, our limited understanding of the psychosocial factors related to dating violence precludes meaningful discussion of which boys are at greatest risk. Second, this gap has hindered examination of the implications of such experiences for boys' development and subsequent dating behavior and interactions with an intimate partner. If, indeed, dating during adolescence is preparation for adult relationships, and the patterns learned early become habituated, then such investigations must be conducted (Hyman, 1999; Torrey & Lee, 1987; O'Leary, Barling, Arias, Rosenbaum, Malone, & Tyree, 1989). 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. Finally, by pursuing a systematic investigation of the factors associated with reports of dating violence by adolescent boys, intervention and prevention efforts can be tailored to enhance their effectiveness (Hyman, 1999; Malik et al., 1997; Tontodonato & Crew, 1992).

The present study aims to fill this gap by examining the correlates of physical dating victimization among a representative sample of adolescent boys in the U.S. First, it provides current and comprehensive information on the prevalence of physical dating violence. Consequently, findings from this study have national significance. Second, by identifying psychosocial correlates, dating violence can be placed within the larger context of adolescent boys' risk behavior. To this end we examine the association of physical dating violence with emotional health, other forms of violence, sexual behavior, and substance use, and attempt to establish a more complete cluster of risk factors.

METHOD

Sample

The 1999 national school-based Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data were used for this study.

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