What Makes Youth More Likely to Be Involved in Both Peer and Dating Violence?

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Teenage boy lying on sofa.

Shared Longitudinal Predictors of Physical Peer and Dating Violence (abstract). Vangie A. Foshee, Luz McNaughton Reyes, Andra T. Tharp, Ling-Yin Chang, Susan T. Ennett, Thomas R. Simon, Natasha E. Latzman, and Chiravath Suchindran. Journal of Adolescent Health. Vol. 56, No. 1 (2015).

What it’s about: Foshee et al. wanted to know what factors make young people more or less likely to be involved in physical violence with both their peers and dating partners. They also wanted to see how those factors might differ for boys versus girls. To find out, the authors surveyed a racially diverse sample of more than 4,000 eighth- through tenth-grade students in three North Carolina counties. Researchers gathered information in the fall of 2003, and again the following spring.

Why read it: Previous studies have found that youth who are involved in peer violence are often involved in dating violence as well, Foshee et al. write. Still, programs often address one issue or the other rather than addressing both at once. Learning what risk and protective factors are linked with both peer and dating violence can help service providers design cross-cutting programs that reduce costs and save time by helping multiple youth at once, the authors say.  

Biggest takeaways from the research: Among male and female participants, holding prosocial beliefs (i.e., beliefs linked with positive social behaviors such as being honest) was considered a protective factor for both peer and dating violence. By contrast, anger, family conflict, and exposure to aggressive behavior at school were shared risk factors, regardless of gender.

Researchers also found a number of differences in the risk and protective factors for girls and for boys.

For girls, but not for boys, Foshee et al. found the following:

  • Anxiety and exposure to aggressive behavior in the neighborhood emerged as risk factors.
  • Having friends who hold prosocial beliefs was considered a protective factor.
  • Higher parental education was protective against both types of violence, regardless of ethnicity.
  • Parental monitoring (i.e., when parents monitor their children’s whereabouts or set a curfew) was shown to be protective only when the level of family conflict was not taken into account.

For boys, but not for girls, the researchers found the following:

  • Heavy alcohol use emerged as a risk factor.
  • Parental monitoring was considered protective, regardless of whether there was also family conflict.    

Because family dynamics can lead to youth anger, anxiety, and alcohol and drug use, the authors recommend that agencies implement family-based programs that both decrease family conflict and promote parental monitoring. Addressing these concerns, in turn, may reduce both peer and dating violence inflicted by youth. Foshee et al. also suggest that future studies account for changes in peer and dating relationship norms stemming from new technology.

Additional References: Look for more articles on teen dating violence and violence prevention in our research library.

Read a Q&A interview with Andra Tharp, one of the authors of this study, on Dating Matters, a dating violence prevention program developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Learn about Safe Dates, an evidence-based program adapted to reduce dating violence among youth exposed to domestic violence.

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