, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 551-565

Trajectories of Physical Dating Violence from Middle to High School: Association with Relationship Quality and Acceptability of Aggression

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Abstract

Although research on dating violence is growing, little is known about the distinct developmental trajectories of dating violence during adolescence. The current study identifies trajectories of physical dating violence victimization and perpetration that boys and girls follow from sixth to twelfth grade, examines the overlap of these trajectories, and characterizes them by perceptions of a caring dating relationship and acceptability of dating aggression. The sample consisted of randomly selected sixth graders from nine schools in Northeast Georgia (n = 588; 52 % boys; 49 % White, 36 % African American, 12 % Latino) who completed yearly surveys from Grades 6–12. We used latent class mixture modeling to identify the trajectories and generalized estimating equations models to examine the acceptability of dating aggression by dating violence trajectories. Participants followed two trajectories of dating violence victimization (boys: low and high; girls: low and increasing) and two of perpetration (boys and girls: low and increasing). When examining the joint trajectories of victimization and perpetration, a similar proportion of boys (62 %) and girls (65 %) were in the low victimization and low perpetration group and reported the lowest acceptance of dating aggression. The same proportion of boys and girls (27 %) were in the high/increasing victimization and perpetration group, and reported the highest acceptance of dating aggression. However, acceptance of dating aggression decreased from Grade 6–12 for all groups, even for those whose trajectory of dating violence increased. Victimization and perpetration were associated with reporting a less caring dating relationship. Results highlight the importance of focusing prevention efforts early for adolescents who follow this increasing probability of physical dating violence.