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Teen Dating Relationships: Understanding and Comparing Youth and Adult Conceptualizations, Executive Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2014
15 pages
This executive summary outlines a study that directly engaged teens and young adults in order to better understand how youth conceptualize teen dating relationships, and the extent to which youth conceptualizations comport with those of adults.
Incidences of teen dating violence (TDV) have escalated substantially in recent years and have resulted in numerous initiatives designed to address the issue. One critical challenge in addressing TDV relates to the lack of research on how youth view dating, apart from aggressive and/or violent relationships. Most research in this area is guided by the assumptions of adolescents' dating experiences instead of by teen reality. In this study, group concept mapping was used capture, compare, and visually represent perspectives of dating relationships across samples of teens, young adults, and adults. Facilitated discussions with samples of the three groups augmented the concept map with additional insight around the complexities and nuances of dating relationships. Across groups, substantial agreement emerged on the characteristics of teen dating, the interrelationships among those characteristics, and participant opinions on their frequency and desirability. It was observed that youth tend to conceptualize dating relationships in "stages," and note difficulties in maintaining self-awareness while in a romantic relationship. The results of this project strongly suggest that research and programmatic efforts should focus on the confluence of positive and negative dating aspects in shaping youth's ability to recognize unhealthy dating characteristics, and embrace a more multidimensional, contextually, and temporally sensitive approach to work in the field.

Date Published: October 1, 2014