Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Social Support as a Moderator between Dating Violence Victimization and Depression/anxiety among African American and Caucasian Adolescents

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Social Support as a Moderator between Dating Violence Victimization and Depression/anxiety among African American and Caucasian Adolescents

Article excerpt

Abstract. Victimization in dating relationships was examined among 681 African American and Caucasian adolescents. Specifically, perceived social support was evaluated as a moderator between (a) physical dating violence victimization and anxiety/depression and (b) emotional abuse in dating relationships and anxiety/depression. Youth completed self-report measures of victimization in dating relationships, psychological functioning, and perceived familial and peer social support. Results indicated that 37% reported physical dating violence and 62% reported emotional abuse in dating relationships. Greater physical and emotional dating victimization was associated with more anxiety/depression. Moreover, social support moderated the association between victimization and psychological well-being, particularly for African American males. Findings highlight the powerful influence of perceived social support among adolescent targets of physical violence and emotional abuse in dating relationships.


Dating violence is a pervasive form of victimization within our society, and has been linked to deleterious outcomes including depression, anxiety, and physical injury (Carlson, 1987; DeKeseredy & Schwartz, 1994). Initial efforts aimed at better understanding interpersonal violence focused on college students and adults. More recently, investigations have started to address the prevalence of dating violence among adolescents, although the literature base for this population is less extensive, particularly with respect to minority youth. Additional research is necessary given that adolescence is a developmentally important time period in which negative repercussions of violence might have lasting detrimental effects. In particular, exploring moderating and mediating factors that might protect adolescent targets of violence is a critical step in helping youth achieve optimal development despite adversity (Becker, Barham, Eron, & Chen, 1994). Given the documented link between social support and resilient outcomes among youth, the current study focused on the protective role of social support (Connell, Spencer, & Aber, 1994; Grant et al., 2000). Specifically, this investigation examined physical violence and emotional abuse in dating relationships among African American and Caucasian adolescents and evaluated perceived social support as a moderating factor between victimization and self-reported depression/anxiety symptoms.

Dating Violence

Extant research has documented that dating violence begins to emerge in early adolescence. According to one investigation, 29% of victims experienced their first incident of dating violence between the ages of 12 and 13 and 40% were first victimized between the ages of 14 and 15 (Burcky, Reuterman, & Kopsky, 1988). Prevalence rate estimates have varied due to the definition of dating violence used, type of dating violence under consideration, and method of assessment. Broadly, between 10% (Roscoe & Callahan, 1985) and 55% (O'Keefe, 1998) of adolescents have been the targets of dating violence. Estimates tend to be the highest when emotional abuse is considered to constitute dating violence (Bookwala, Frieze, Smith, & Ryan, 1992). Between 20% (O'Keefe, Brockopp, & Chew, 1986) and 50% (Sudermann & Jaffe, 1993) of adolescents report experiencing physical forms of dating violence.

Conflicting information exists with respect to differences in dating violence rates by sex and race. In a study of ethnically diverse high school students, the rate of physical dating violence victimization did not differ for males and females (Malik, Sorenson, & Aneshensel, 1997). Conversely, among high school students surveyed who were in violent dating relationships, significantly more females (65%) than males (35%) were the targets of violence (Roscoe & Callahan, 1985). With respect to psychological abuse, a study of adolescents in an alternative high school program revealed that males and females were victimized at approximately the same rate (James, West, Deters, & Armijo, 2000). …

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