Gender Variations in Dating Violence and Positive Conflict Resolution among Mexican Adolescents

By Antônio, Tiago; Hokoda, Audrey | Violence and Victims, July 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Gender Variations in Dating Violence and Positive Conflict Resolution among Mexican Adolescents


Antônio, Tiago, Hokoda, Audrey, Violence and Victims


The present study examined gender variations on dating violence and conflict resolution among Mexican adolescents. Two hundred and eighty-five high school students, aged 15 to 18 years, were recruited in Monterrey, Mexico. Verbal-emotional abuse was positively related to physical abuse and negatively associated with engagement of positive conflict resolution. No gender differences were found in physical abuse, verbal-emotional abuse, and positive conflict resolution. The findings have implications for the development of teen relationship violence intervention programs that focus on teaching positive conflict resolution skills to Mexican youth.

Keywords: teen relationship violence; interpersonal negotiation skills; physical abuse; verbal-emotional abuse

Adolescence is the developmental stage in which people begin dating (Sanderson & Cantor, 1995). Unfortunately, many adolescents experience dating violence rather than love and happiness as they initiate romantic relationships (Jackson, 1999). Teen relationship violence (TRV) is a serious public health problem (Foshee, Linder, MacDougall, & Bangdiwala, 2001; Parrot & Zeichner, 2003) that has been defined as an attempt to control another person physically, sexually, or psychologically (Wolfe et al., 1996, as cited in Wekerle & Wolfe, 1999).

Dating violence studies have often focused on physical abuse and psychological abuse (i.e., verbal-emotional abuse). Physical and verbal-emotional abuses often co-occur (Sears, Byers, & Price, 2007), and verbal-emotional abuse has been identified as a strong predictor for physical abuse (Cano, Avery-Leaf, Cascardi, & O'Leary, 1998; O'Leary & Slep, 2003). Previous authors have proposed that verbal-emotional abuse may prevail over physical abuse in adolescent dating relationships because this type of verbal-emotional aggressive behavior is characteristic of this age-group (Wolfe, Scott, Wekerle, & Pittman, 2001). Specifically, 10.6% of male adolescents and 28.2% of female adolescents reported that they have been physically abusive, and 37.8% of male adolescents and 45.9% of female adolescents have reported that they have been verbally-emotionally abusive (Wolfe, Scott, Reitzel-Jaffe, et al., 2001; Wolfe, Scott, Wekerle, et al., 2001).

Several studies have reported that female adolescents perpetrate more physical abuse than male adolescents in dating relationships (e.g., Wolfe, Scott, Reitzel-Jaffe, et al., 2001). Shute and Charlton (2006) have argued that aggression may be higher among girls because stereotypic behaviors, such as aggression in boys and prosociality in girls (Crick, Bigbee, & Howes, 1996; Lisboa et al., 2002), may change when adolescents interact with their opposite-sex peers. For instance, boys who may be aggressive with their male friends may be less aggressive toward girls, whereas, girls who exhibit prosocial behaviors toward their girlfriends may show more overt anger toward their male friends. Other authors have suggested that girls may respond more aggressively during dating conflicts in self-defense (Foshee, 1996 ; Foshee et al., 2001).

Unfortunately, studies on dating violence are often limited to American and Canadian White adolescents. An exception to the dearth of TRV research on non-White teens is noteworthy. Rivera and colleagues reported in their study that 21% of Mexican girls and 19.5% of Mexican boys have been physically abusive and that 4.21% of Mexican girls and 4.33% of Mexican boys reported that they have been verbally and emotionally abusive in their dating relationships (Rivera-Rivera, Allen-Leigh, Rodríguez-Ortega, Chávez-Ayala, & Lazcano-Ponce, 2007). These authors attribute the small gender difference in prevalence to the exploratory nature of their study and to the limited number of items assessing physical abuse (i.e., pushing, hitting).

The scarcity of TRV literature on Mexican adolescents is also serious because domestic violence is prevalent in Mexico (Finkler, 1997), with 34% to 46% of Mexican women reporting domestic violence (Natera, Tiburcio, Berenzon, & López, 1997; Saltijeral, Ramos, & Caballero, 1999; Shrader Cox & Valdez Santiago, 1992), and because youth who witness their parents aggress toward each other are more likely to perpetrate dating violence (Bernard & Bernard, 1983; Breslin, Riggs, O'Leary, & Arias, 1990; Foshee, Bauman, & Linder, 1999; Malik, Sorenson, & Aneshensel, 1997; O'Keeffe, Brockopp, & Chew, 1986; Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980). …

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