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Dating Violence Among Latino Teenagers

Date Published
July 21, 2016

Romantic relationships are an important part of growing up for most teenagers. Unfortunately, some teens experience dating violence. Although research is improving our understanding of these relationships, there are many things we still need to learn. For instance, are teens who experience violence once likely to experience it again? Does culture play a role in preventing or responding to dating violence among Latino teens?

To learn more about the experiences of dating Latino teens, NIJ grant recipients Carlos Cuevas, Chiara Sabina and their colleagues led a follow-up study to the Dating Violence Among Latino Adolescents (DAVILA) study.

The researchers found that among the students in the study:

  • Dating violence was likely to be a repeated event. Teens who experienced dating violence in the first study were likely to experience dating violence again.
  • As the number of romantic relationships a teen has had increased, so did the risk of being a victim of dating violence.
  • Teens who experienced dating violence in the first study reported feeling less connection with their schools in the follow-up study.
  • Teens who did not experience dating violence in the first study and who had strong social support networks were less likely to experience dating violence.
  • Teens who lived with other children in the household had a lower chance of experiencing dating violence.
  • Cultural identity did not affect dating violence victimization.

These findings have several implications for policy and practice.

First, the fact that teens who experience dating violence once are likely to experience it again, along with the finding that teens who have more romantic relationships were more at risk of being victims of dating violence, indicates a need for efforts that address teen dating violence before it begins rather than focusing solely on interventions after an incident has happened.

Second, because dating violence programs are often delivered to teens through their schools, the finding that students who had already been victimized felt less connected with their schools means that the teens most in need of assistance may not be receptive to school-based programs. Finding ways to engage these teens or to reach them in other settings could make dating violence intervention or prevention programs more effective.

Third, the finding that teens who did not report dating violence in the first study and who had strong social support and lived with other children suggests that social and familial support might serve as a key prevention factor.

This study did not explore why experiences of dating violence led to decreased feelings of school connectedness. Understanding this association, however, is critical for developing and delivering interventions that adequately address the needs of students who experience dating violence and is an important avenue for future research.

About this Article

This work discussed in this article was completed under grant number 2011-WG-BX-0021 awarded by NIJ to Northeastern University.  The article is based on the grant report Dating Violence Among Latino Adolescents-II (DAVILA-II) Study by Carlos A. Cuevas (PI), Chiara Sabina, Marc Swatt and Rebecca Cudmore. A summary of that report also is available.  

Date Published: July 21, 2016