Primary Sources: How Can Communities Help Prevent Dating Violence?

Three young people smiling.

Adolescent Dating Violence Prevention and Intervention in a Community Setting: Perspectives of Young Adults and Professionals” (PDF, 127KB). The Qualitative Report, Vol. 17, No. 99 (2012).

What it’s about: The authors of this study assert that dating violence is a "community issue" best addressed through an "ecological" approach--one that views young people within the context of their families, schools and communities. To better understand what makes for a successful community-based treatment, they interviewed 88 young people, ages 18 to 21, who had experienced dating violence, as well as 20 youth-work professionals who work with teen victims of relationship abuse. Rather than looking at a specific intervention, the authors sought insights into what ideal adolescent dating violence prevention programs might look like.

Why read it: Ecological or “milieu” models of care have grown more popular in recent years as family and youth workers and researchers recognize the impact of communities on the lives of individual young people. This study points to ways such models could be improved.

Biggest takeaways for family and youth workers: The researchers asked participants what they thought of their community's response to teen dating violence, what prevention and intervention programs are available, and what ideal programs might look like. On the whole, youth and professionals said much needs to be done to bolster their communities' responses to dating violence. Young people said most community members remain “blind” to the issue. The researchers note that anti-dating violence resources are “unavailable, inappropriate or helpful but impersonal.”

Given all of that, what would be an ideal community response to dating violence? Youth said the response should

  • be led by professionals who listen carefully to teens without criticizing them or telling them what to do;
  • allow youth to move at their own pace when dealing with or ending violent dating relationships; and
  • provide options for help rather than firm directions. (One youth said, “Get us help. Don’t force it down our throats. We get told what to do 24 hours a day.”)

For their part, Martsoff, Colbert, and Drauker say an ideal program would be free for young people, appeal to African American teen boys, who are often ignored in anti-teen dating violence efforts, and occur in comfortable small groups.

Additional references: Loveisrespect.org is devoted to curbing dating violence among teens, and they compile many statistics on the topic. Learn more about ecological or developmental systems theory in "Research to Practice: Making Developmental Systems Theory Work for You." We've written about several evidence-based milieu treatments, such as the CARE model and Sanctuary model.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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