Aggression in adolescent dating relationships

See other articles in PMC that cite the published article. We also examined the effects of individual differences in emotional and behavioral problems. Parental monitoring emerged as a protective factor in reducing both dating victimization and relational aggression. Our findings also point to a significant transfer of aggression in peer relationships to relational aggression in dating relationships.

Peer aggression and victimization, Relational aggression, Adolescent romantic relationships, Parental monitoring Introduction Dating during adolescence is a normative experience that can foster interpersonal competence and lay the foundation for intimate adult relationships Furman et al. Empirical studies have linked healthy dating experiences to both positive adjustment and elevated self-esteem Connolly and Konarski , but aggressive dating experiences are also linked to negative outcomes such as internalizing and externalizing behaviors Davila et al.

Dating aggression in adolescence has been associated with other negative outcomes including low self-esteem, substance use, dropping out of school and teenage pregnancy Hagan and Foster ; Lewis and Fremouw ; Silverman et al. Adolescents are inexperienced with dating and report heighten emotionality when involved in romantic relationships Feiring , which potentially increases dating conflict and aggression. During early explorations of intimate peer relationships, adolescents may have difficulty determining the difference between flirting and aggression and grapple with distinguishing behaviors that are playful from those that are aggressive Johnson et al.

One-quarter to over one-half of dating adolescents report physical or psychological abuse in their relationships James et al. Risk for aggressive dating experiences are influenced by individual adjustment as well as interpersonal contexts, including those created by familial interactions Ehrensaft et al. Given the significance of relational aggression in adolescent peer relationships see Leadbeater et al.

Recent research has also begun to document the detrimental effects of psychological and verbal assaults in dating relationships Holt and Espelage Relational peer aggression overlaps with verbal or psychological assaults involving insults, accusations, and intimidation , but it also has unique features in dating relationships, such as provoking jealousy and uncertainty in the relationship Linder et al.

For example, an adolescent may deliberately flirt with opposite sex peers or use silent treatment to induce fear of ending the relationship. In past research, relational aggression with dating partners has been linked to less trust and elevated jealousy Linder et al.

In this study, we use a new questionnaire assessing overt and relational victimization and relational aggression that taps into behaviors gleaned from a qualitative study of dating violence in girls at high risk for dating aggression by Banister et al.

Parental Influences on Dating Violence Attachment theory suggests that close relationships are internally represented throughout the life course as a relationship schema or map, stemming primarily from early parentóchild relationships. Several studies have shown that close parent relationships can protect youth from abusive dating relationships Cleveland et al. For example, adolescent girls who were satisfied with their level of affective closeness to parents were less likely to be victimized and more likely to recognize difficulties in relationships and seek help, compared to girls who had poor affective relationships Howard et al.

However, research also shows that parental maltreatment involving physical abuse, lack of parental warmth, trust, and involvement and poor monitoring are associated with difficultly establishing healthy romantic relationships and with overt aggression with dating partners Bolger et al.

Prospero found that children from more conflictual homes reported having friends engaged in higher levels of verbal and physical aggression with their dating partners than did adolescents from less conflictual homes. Research examining parental predictors of dating relational aggression and victimization, suggests that this behavior is linked to parental enmeshment, over involvement, and high psychological control Linder et al.

Typically, adolescents are seeking and often taking more autonomy in their choice of relationships with peers and in the activities they do with them. They may be particularly concerned with privacy in dating relationships to avoid teasing or to hide sexual expressions in the relationship.

However, the use of psychological control has been associated with internalizing and externalizing problems in children and adolescents Casas et al. Effective parental monitoring relies on trust and open lines of communication between parents and adolescents. It reflects the degree to which parents know where their adolescents are and how they spend their time, and includes attending to, tracking, and structuring contexts for the youth Borawski et al.

Higher levels of effective monitoring have been linked with lower levels of aggressive behaviors in youth Galambos et al. Family divorce and low parental monitoring are also associated with physical and sexual dating violence Banyard et al. Peer Influence on Dating Violence Attachment systems in close friendships and romantic relationships, in part, also reflect early patterns of parentóchild interactions Furman et al.

However, close friendships may provide unique influences by fostering social skills in dating relationships and providing information and advice about dating behaviors and norms Brown ; Furman et al. The emergence of mixed-sex peer groups in adolescence corresponds to the initiation of dating relationships Connolly et al.

Close dyadic friendships teach children valuable social lessons about feelings of closeness, intimacy and mutuality that are important for dating relationships Furman et al. Positive same-sex friendship quality is also related to autonomy Taradash et al. Conversely, children who have a history of problematic same-sex peer interactions are likely to transfer these maladaptive patterns to their dating relationships Brendgen et al.

For example, adolescents whose peers approve of or engage in aggressive and violent dating relationships are more likely to follow suit than adolescents whose peers disapprove of aggressive behaviors Arriaga and Foshee ; Foshee et al. Moreover, some youth fail to recognize violence until the relationship ends Ismail et al. Girls may choose to stay in a violent dating relationship rather than not have a boyfriend in peer groups where this is the norm Banister et al. Depression is predictive of physical violence with dating partners for both girls Cleveland et al.

Although the majority of the research examining adolescent adjustment has considered only physical or overt dating aggression and victimization, there is also evidence that dating relational aggression predicts depression among adolescents Hagan and Foster Gender differences are also possible. However, the physically aggressive, non-victimized girls were as likely as victimized girls who were not aggressive to experience high levels of depressive symptoms, suggesting that the mental health costs of aggression may be higher for girls than boys.

Research also shows that adolescents who bully others are more likely to have poor quality dating relationships and exhibit physical and social aggression with their dating partners, compared to non-bullies Connolly et al.

Aggression or victimization in peer friendships may persist in the dating domain due to underlying cognitive and perceptual biases that affect expectations of peers Ladd Perceptual biases such as these may be evident in later romantic relationships and lead to frustration and conflict that perpetuate aggressive interchanges. Effective behavioral control may provide a supportive context that allows parents to become aware of unhealthy relationships and encourage adolescents to ask for help in dealing with them.

Because the quality of romantic relationships is so closely linked to behavior and experiences with peers and because dating relationships often originate within peer networks, we also hypothesized that aggression and victimization in the peer domain would predict similar styles of behaviors with dating partners.

Furthermore, we hypothesized that adolescents with higher levels of emotional and behavioral maladjustment would report more aggressive dating relationships and that associations between behavioral problems and dating aggression would be strongest. We did not make specific predictions relating to gender. A meta-analysis Archer suggests that findings of gender differences in indirect or relational aggression with peers are inconsistent and reflect differences in measures used observations, self, peer or teacher ratings , sample characteristics school versus community based , and study location European versus North American.

Focusing on dating relationships, adolescent males report greater romantic relational victimization than females in one study Linder et al. There is also mixed evidence for gender differences in the use of physical aggression Foshee et al. Given these mixed findings, we did not make specific predictions about gender differences, but examined their effects in all analyses.

Participants were recruited in a medium-sized Canadian city. From a random sample of 9, telephone listings, 1, households with an eligible youth between ages 12ó19 years were identified. Complete data were available from youth mean age Participants were asked to indicate whether they were currently in a dating relationship. Seven did not respond to this question. Seventy-nine percent of the dating youth lived in a household with two or more adults.

Fifty percent of the youth reported that they had attended a maximum of three schools in their lifetime. Independent samples t-tests were used to compare youth in dating relationships with those who were not dating on overt and relational dating victimization, relational dating aggression, father and mother psychological control, parental monitoring, overt and relational peer victimization and aggression, and emotional and behavioral problems.

While levels of differences are small in magnitude, the consistency of these effects suggests that dating youth, as a group, were experiencing more emotional, behavioral and parental risk factors than their peers. Procedure Youth and their parents or guardians both gave informed and written consent. A trained interviewer administered part one to the youth and recorded their answers regarding demographics, bullying, peer victimization, and relationships with parents and peers.

The second part included questions about the use of illegal substances and delinquent activities. To ensure confidentiality for the second part, the interviewer read the questions out loud and the youth recorded their own answers. All responses were placed in an envelope and sealed to maintain confidentiality. On average, it took youth 1 h and 15 min to complete the survey. For their participation, youth received a 25 dollar gift certificate for a music or grocery store.

Filler items included three items giving positive statements about the relationship e. While the internal consistency is somewhat low, the endorsement of specific dating behaviors e. Items include efforts to create jealousy i. Parental Monitoring Barber et al. Youth responded to five items on parental monitoring i. Five questions were used to assess relational aggression e. How often do you do this?

Emotional problems were compiled from three six-item subscales that tapped 1 separation from adults e. Behavioral problems were compiled from three different six-item subscales that tapped 1 regulating attention, impulsivity, and activity level e.

High scores on the non-cooperation with others scale represent noncompliant, defiant and resentful relationships with adults and peers. Table 1 Means, standard deviations, and correlations among variables Variable.


Aggression in adolescent dating relationships is of high concern. There are negative psychological consequences as well as the risk of physical injury. Moreover, use of aggression in dating relationships may set in motion a pattern of interpersonal violence that continues into adulthood. Request PDF on ResearchGate | Physical and psychological aggression in dating relationships of Spanish adolescents: Motives and consequences | The purpose of the study was to examine three aspects.

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