Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Adolescent Dating Violence Prevention and Intervention in a Community Setting: Perspectives of Young Adults and Professionals

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Adolescent Dating Violence Prevention and Intervention in a Community Setting: Perspectives of Young Adults and Professionals

Article excerpt

Adolescent dating violence (ADV) is a significant community health concern involving "physical, sexual, psychological or emotional violence within a dating relationship" (Centers for Disease Control, 2010). Studies indicate that anywhere between 20-50% of teens have experienced an aggressive dating relationship (Connolly & Josephson, 2007; Jouriles, Platt, & McDonald, 2009), and 50-80% have known a friend who has experienced dating violence (Craigen, Sikes, Healey, & Hays, 2009).

Adolescent dating violence is associated with a number of risk factors and negative outcomes. Pregnancy, substance/alcohol use and abuse, interpersonal violence, eating disorders, suicidal intentions, decreased mental and physical health, and low life satisfaction are often associated with ADV (Banyard & Cross, 2008; Bossarte, Simon, & Swahn, 2008; Connolly & Josephson, 2007; Craigen et al., 2009). ADV has been associated with mental health concerns (e.g., depression), substance use, and negative views of school (Banyard & Cross, 2008). One particular concern is that ongoing dating violence in adolescence is associated with intimate partner violence later in life (Connolly & Josephson, 2007; Johnson et. al., 2005).

Legislators have enacted dating violence laws in at least 14 states, and 7 states have pending legislation (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2011). Enacted legislation has taken one of several forms: (a) mandated ADV educational programs in middle and high schools; (b) mandated development of school policies related to ADV prevention; (c) encouraged, but not required, school-based education; (d) mandated continuing education related to ADV for school personnel; or (e) mandates for state departments of education to develop model curricula or policies related to ADV.

Most legislation has encouraged or mandated the development or use of some type of ADV education. Clinicians and researchers have developed a number of programs designed to prevent ADV and have described them in the literature (O'Leary, Woodin, & Fritz, 2006). Whitaker et al. (2006) examined 11 of the most widely-used ADV prevention programs. These programs were primarily universal (aimed at all teens, regardless of their risk for violence) rather than targeted (aimed at those with higher risk). Most programs focused on the use of feminist and social learning principles to prevent dating violence perpetration and victimization (Jouriles et al., 2009).

Several researchers have studied the outcomes of current ADV prevention programs. Most programs target knowledge and attitude changes about dating violence as program outcomes (Avery-Leaf, Cascardi, O'Leary, & Cano, 1997; Foshee et al., 1998, 2000; Jaffe, Sudermann, Reitzel, & Killip, 1992; Macgowan, 1997; Pittman, Wolfe, & Wekerle, 1998). Teens who participate in these programs often report an increase in knowledge about dating violence and a decrease in attitudes that support dating violence (Ball, Kerig, & Rosenbluth, 2009; Clinton-Sherrod et al., 2009; O'Leary et al., 2006). Other studies have shown reduction in psychological, physical, or sexual dating violence behaviors (Foshee et al., 2005; Wolfe et al., 2009).

While promising results have been shown in studies of ADV prevention programs, the prevalence of dating violence remains high (CDC, 2010). Some researchers have suggested that positive development for youth (e.g., engaging in healthy, rather than violent, peer relationships) was related to healthy community connections (Lerner, et al., 2005). Others have shown that aggressive adolescent relationship behaviors, specifically ADV, were linked to tolerance of aggression in society (Connolly, Friedlander, Pepler, Craig, & Laporte, 2010). Similarly, several researchers suggested that the success of ADV prevention programs could be increased by using an ecological approach, in which individuals are considered in the context of their families, communities, and society (Connolly & Josephson, 2007; Jain, Buka, Subramanian, & Molnar, 2010; Kerig, Volz, Moeddel, & Cuellar, 2010). …

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