Teen dating violence represents a serious public health and criminal justice problem. Although several risk factors have been identified, the causes and mechanisms that lead to its development are still unclear.
As a researcher with Box Out Productions, the parent arm of Box Out Bullying, I and other collegues spend countless hours researching what works and common misdirections. These studies highlight the importance of the family context in the development of aggression in high-risk youth and have significant implications for intervention and prevention.
Children of alcoholic parents, given their increased exposure to marital violence and higher risk for other negative outcomes (e.g., aggression, poor self-regulation, substance use), may be especially at risk for involvement in teen dating violence. However, it is still not understood how these risk factors unfold and progress throughout a child’s life to ultimately contribute to teen dating violence.
Findings from two NIJ-funded studies that focused on high-risk youth highlight the importance of family context in the development of aggression and teen dating violence.
Jennifer Livingston, Ph.D., and her colleagues at the University at Buffalo conducted two studies to examine possible developmental pathways, including family-based risks that contribute to, and protective factors that discourage, involvement in teen dating violence.
These studies highlight the importance of the family context in the development of aggression and teen dating violence in high-risk youth and have significant implications for intervention and prevention. Specifically, positive parenting (e.g., maternal acceptance) and self-regulation were shown to be crucial protective influences that have effects extending to late adolescence.
Furthermore, family-based interventions may be most effective for targeting aggression and teen dating violence in adolescents, particularly for those at higher risk due to parental psychopathology. In particular, programs that focus on improving parents’ mental health, marital conflict, and parenting skills may prove to be particularly beneficial.
National Institute of Justice, “Family Context Is an Important Element in the Development of Teen Dating Violence and Should Be Considered in Prevention and Intervention,” April 4, 2017, NIJ.gov can be found here.
Jeremy Rubenstein, Founder and Creative Director of Box Out Productions, which produces Box Out Bullying, is a National Bullying Prevention Speaker, Social Entrepreaneur, and Bullying Prevention Activist.