This short-term longitudinal study will examine the prevalence rates and risk factors associated with dating violence among a sample of high-risk youth. The goal of this comprehensive, in-depth examination of dating violence is to develop a better understanding of how to promote positive relationships for youth most at risk for initiating, maintaining, and reengaging in unhealthy romantic relationships. Second, the research will explore risk factors associated with (a) remaining in relationships after abuse has occurred and (b) continued victimization and/or perpetration of violence as youth move between relationships. Third, we will test whether relationship-level characteristics (e.g., unequal power dynamics, sexual activity) relate to dating violence among high risk youth. Finally, in response to calls for more research on the consequences of dating older partners (Hines & Finkelhor, 2007), this project will investigate whether age differences between high-risk adolescents and their partners relate to relationship violence; furthermore, we will explore potential mediators of this relationship to determine why partner age differences might matter in adolescent relationships.
An ethnically-diverse sample of at least 200 (50% female) high-risk adolescents will be recruited from Community Attention, a service-based agency located in a mid-sized city in the Mid-Atlantic region. Participants will range in age from 15 to 18 years old, but will only be eligible if they have been involved in a romantic relationship that lasted for at least one month. Adolescents will participate in two waves of data collection. In Wave 1 participants will complete two hours of assessments designed to measure basic background variables, common risk and protective factors associated with teen dating violence, and the prevalence and trajectories of relationship violence among high-risk youth. Positive relationship outcomes, namely negotiation and caring, will also be assessed. Approximately one year later, participants will complete a follow-up interview. Wave 2 will consist of the same measures, but will capture adolescents' experiences with new partners since Wave 1. Thus, this dataset will contain in-depth information about relationship characteristics; psychological, physical, and sexual dating violence; and positive outcomes experienced within high-risk adolescents' first 1 - 3 romantic relationships.
To test the research questions, the investigators will employ a combination of descriptive statistics and
traditional and more advanced data analysis methods. For example, multiple regression analyses will be conducted to determine which pattems of risk factors relate to victimization and perpetration of violence among high-risk youth. Latent Growth analyses will be employed to examine which risk factors are associated with participants' trajectories into and out of violent relationships. All analyses will use the full sample (n - 200), but because boys and girls might experience different risk factors (O'Keefe & Tresiter, 1998), gender-specific analyses will be conducted. For example, partner age differences may pose a unique risk for experiencing relationship violence among girls.