In addition to identifying risk and protective factors related to teen-dating violence and positive relationship outcomes within a single relationship and across multiple relationships, this study also explored how early abusive relationships impact trajectories into later abusive relationships, as well as how age gaps between romantic partners might contribute to victimization and other negative outcomes.
Teens in the at-risk sample reported high levels of dating abuse, risky sexual behavior, and deviance within their romantic relationships. Victimization and perpetration were highly correlated, with patterns largely the same for boys and girls. This suggests reciprocal violence rather than one-sided abuse. Risk factors for dating violence were similar whether considering single or multiple relationships; however dynamic risk factors (e.g., depression, peer delinquency) appeared to be more powerful than historical factors (e.g., sexual debut, child maltreatment). Relationship-specific risk factors such as dyadic deviancy and intimacy related significantly to dating violence. This may mean that teens view abusive relationships as being serious and committed. In addition, dating abuse by and toward partners was relatively stable over time. For most teens, experiencing abuse in their first ever romantic relationship placed them at great risk for a trajectory for future abuse. Regarding age gaps between partners, they were related to negative outcomes regardless of the younger partner's age or gender. This link between partner age gaps and poor outcomes is best explained by older and younger partners' risky lifestyles rather than power inequalities. The study concludes there is a need for prevention and intervention efforts that target at-risk youth (low-income, service-receiving youth). These efforts should focus more on relationship quality than the presence or absence of abuse. Suggestions for future research are offered. Participants were 223 adolescents (58 percent female and 61 percent African-American). 3 figures, 5 tables, and 150 references
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