Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 727–744 | Cite as

Direct and Indirect Effects of Neighborhood Characteristics on the Perpetration of Dating Violence Across Adolescence

  • Ling-Yin Chang
  • Vangie A. Foshee
  • Heathe Luz McNaughton Reyes
  • Susan T. Ennett
  • Carolyn T. Halpern
Empirical Research


Neighborhood context plays a role in the development of adolescent health risk behaviors, but few studies have investigated the influence of neighborhoods on the perpetration of dating violence. This longitudinal study examined the direct effects of risky neighborhood structural and physical characteristics on trajectories of the perpetration of dating violence, tested whether collective efficacy mediated these relationships, and determined if the effects varied by the sex of the adolescent. Adolescent data are from a multi-wave longitudinal study from grades 8 to 12; neighborhood data were collected from parents’ interviews and U.S. Census data. Multilevel growth curve models were conducted with 3,218 students; the sample was 50 % male, 41 % White, 50 % Black, and 9 % other race/ethnicity. In models examining risky neighborhood variables one at a time, and controlling for potential individual-level confounders, the sex of the adolescent interacted with economic disadvantage, residential instability, and physical disorder; these risky neighborhood characteristics increased risk for girls’ but not boys’ perpetrating of dating violence. In full models with all of the risky neighborhood variables, the sex of the adolescent continued to interact with neighborhood economic disadvantage; living in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods increased girls’ but not boys’ risk for dating violence across all ages. No other risky neighborhood effects were found for boys or girls. Collective efficacy did not mediate the relationships between other neighborhood characteristics and the outcome. These findings suggest that dating violence prevention strategies for girls should consider the contexts in which they live rather than only targeting changes in their individual characteristics.


Adolescent dating violence Neighborhood effects Multilevel model Developmental trajectory 



This research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA16669) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (R49 CCV423114).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Author contributions

L.C. conceived of the study, performed data analyses, and drafted the manuscript; V.F. participated in its design, contributed to substantive content of the paper, and helped in writing the manuscript; H.L.M.R. contributed to the overall analytical approach, helped in data analyses, and contributed to the interpretation of the findings; S.E. participated in the design and coordination of the study, and helped to draft the manuscript; C.H. contributed to the substantive content of the paper and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ling-Yin Chang
    • 1
  • Vangie A. Foshee
    • 2
  • Heathe Luz McNaughton Reyes
    • 3
  • Susan T. Ennett
    • 4
  • Carolyn T. Halpern
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public HealthThe University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health Behavior, 319B Rosenau Hall CB# 7440, Gillings School of Global Public HealthThe University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Department of Health Behavior, 319G Rosenau Hall CB# 7440, Gillings School of Global HealthThe University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health Behavior, 358A Rosenau Hall CB# 7440, Gillings School of Global Public HealthThe University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  5. 5.Department of Maternal and Child Health, 407A Rosenau Hall CB# 8120, Gillings School of Global Public HealthThe University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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