When At-Risk Teens Are Violent Toward Romantic Partners: The Role of Common Stressors

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Objective: The present study uses longitudinal data to examine whether common stressors are associated with the perpetration of teen dating violence (TDV) in a sample of teens involved in the juvenile justice system. Several hypotheses about this association were examined, including the hypothesis that common stressors have a cumulative effect on TDV over time and that the association between common stressors and TDV is stronger among teens who have recently perpetrated TDV. Method: Participants were 92 teens in truancy court who were dating or “seeing” someone at the time they were recruited into the study. After completing a baseline assessment, teens were contacted by phone every 2 weeks over a 12-week period, and they were asked questions about common stressors and TDV during the 2 weeks prior to the phone call. Results: Concurrent common stressors were associated with TDV perpetration. In addition, longitudinal cross-lag analyses showed that stress during a 2-week period predicted TDV perpetration during the subsequent 2-week period, even after controlling for concurrent TDV. Furthermore, both prior and concurrent stressors contributed uniquely to TDV. The association between common stressors and TDV perpetration was stronger for teens who reported a greater history of TDV perpetration prior to the baseline assessment. Conclusion: Our results suggest that common stressors increase the likelihood of TDV perpetration among at-risk teens, that these effects appear to be cumulative, and that the association is especially strong for teens with a recent history of TDV. At-risk teens may benefit from programs designed to reduce stress and mitigate stress reactivity.

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