Research Roundup: Friends and Caregivers Help Young People Avoid, Recover From Violence

Two young friends hugging.

Teen dating violence and violent behavior can have a lasting negative impact on young people, research shows. Recent studies from the University of Baltimore, University of Colorado and University of Washington suggest that young people’s parents and peers can help prevent them from being violent. Caregivers and friends can also help young people bounce back if they have experienced or witnessed violence.

Creating an Emotional Buffer Zone

Young people who get emotional support from their parents and peers will have higher self-esteem than others in the face of dating violence. Tara N. Richards and Kathryn A. Branch from the University of Baltimore and University of Tampa studied 198 young women from the Toledo Adolescent Relationship Study who had experienced dating violence, either emotional, physical or both. The researchers learned that having supportive parents and friends protected youth against low self-esteem, though not against depression or unhealthy weight-control behaviors.

The researchers suggest that programs aimed at preventing dating violence or assisting its victims integrate the support of family and peers. Still, the authors say that more detailed study is needed on whether youth’s peers were victims or perpetrators of violence themselves.

Prosocial Parental Influence

Research shows that young people who are exposed to domestic violence at home are at higher risk for teen dating violence. But few studies have included young people who were involved in the child welfare system. Edward F. Garrido and Heather N. Taussig from the University of Colorado sought to fill this gap on teen dating violence among foster youth.

The authors studied 41 teens who had been maltreated at home and placed in out-of-home care. The young people reported their exposure to violence, experience of teen dating violence and positive peer relationships. They also reported whether their peers had been involved in dating violence, either as victims or as perpetrators. Caregivers reported on their parenting practices.

The study showed that while exposure to intimate partner violence does increase the risk of teen dating violence, young people who have positive relationships with caregivers and peers are less likely to be a victim or perpetrator of teen dating violence. Young people whose peers are involved in dating violence are more likely to be involved themselves, but this likelihood is reduced when caregivers have positive parenting practices.

Violence Doesn’t Discriminate

Racial disparities in dating violence have been documented by some researchers. Kevin P. Haggerty and others from the University of Washington, wanted to see whether other differences, such as income, families and peers, reduced or increased those disparities. They studied 331 8th to 10th graders from Seattle, WA. Of these young people, 163 were African American and 168 were white.

Young people from lower income families were slightly more likely to engage in violent behavior, but income-level was not as influential as peer and family relationships. In this study, race was not a factor. The authors learned that both African American and white young people whose friends were violent or had trouble in school were more likely to engage in violence themselves. They also write that positive relationships with parents helped prevent young people from being violent, even when their peer relationships were not positive.

Read the Articles

Examining Parental and Peer Social Support as a Buffer Between Dating Violence Victimization and Negative Outcomes Among Female Adolescents” (abstract). Women & Criminal Justice, Vol. 23, No. 3 (July-September 2013).

Do Parenting Practices and Prosocial Peers Moderate the Association Between Intimate Partner Violence Exposure and Teen Dating Violence?” (abstract). Psychology of Violence, Vol. 3, No. 4 (October 2013).

Parent and Peer Predictors of Violent Behavior of Black and White Teens” (abstract). Violence and Victims, Vol. 28, No. 1 (2013).

(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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