Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 48, Issue 12, pp 2343–2359 | Cite as

Understanding the Buffering Effects of Protective Factors on the Relationship between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Teen Dating Violence Perpetration

  • Jordan P. DavisEmail author
  • Katie A. Ports
  • Kathleen C. Basile
  • Dorothy L. Espelage
  • Corinne F. David-Ferdon
Empirical Research


Prior research has demonstrated the scope and impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on health and wellbeing. Less is known about the trajectories from exposure to ACEs, such as witnessing family conflict and violence in the community, to teen dating violence perpetration, and the protective factors that buffer the association between early exposure to ACEs and later teen dating violence perpetration. Students (n = 1611) completed self-report surveys six times during middle and high school from 2008 to 2013. In early middle school, the sub-sample was 50.2% female and racially/ethnically diverse: 47.7% Black, 36.4% White, 3.4% Hispanic, 1.7% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 10.8% other. Youth were, on average, 12.7 years old. Latent transition analysis was used to assess how trajectories of exposure to parental conflict and community violence during middle school transition into classes of teen dating violence perpetration (e.g., sexual, physical, threatening, relational, and verbal) in high school. Protective factors were then analyzed as moderators of the transition probabilities. Three class trajectories of ACEs during middle school were identified: decreasing family conflict and increasing community violence (n = 103; 6.4%), stable low family conflict and stable low community violence (n = 1027; 63.7%), stable high family conflict and stable high community violence (n = 481; 29.9%). A three class solution for teen dating violence perpetration in high school was found: high all teen dating violence class (n = 113; 7.0%), physical and verbal only teen dating violence class (n = 335; 20.8%), and low all teen dating violence class (n = 1163; 72.2%). Social support, empathy, school belonging and parental monitoring buffered some transitions from ACEs exposure trajectory classes to teen dating violence perpetration classes. Comprehensive prevention strategies that address multiple forms of violence while bolstering protective factors across the social ecology may buffer negative effects of exposure to violence in adolescence.


Adverse childhood experiences Trauma PTSD Teen dating violence Adolescent Development 


Authors' Contributions

JD conceived of the study, participated in its design, conducted statistical analyses, and drafted the manuscript; KP participated in the design and interpretation of the data and drafted parts of the manuscript; DLE participated in the design and coordination of the study and edited the manuscript; KCB helped conceive the research questions, aided in design of study and helped draft the manuscript; CDF helped in the study design, interpretation of results, and edited the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


Middle school data in this manuscript were drawn from a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; 1U01/CE001677) to Dorothy Espelage (PI). High school data in this manuscript were drawn from a grant from the National Institute of Justice (Grant #2011- 90948-IL-IJ) to Dorothy Espelage (PI). Analyses and manuscript preparation were supported through an inter-personnel agency agreement (IPA) between University of Florida (Espelage) and the CDC (17IPA1706096). The findings and conclusions in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

“All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.”

Informed Consent

“Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.”

Supplementary material

10964_2019_1028_MOESM1_ESM.docx (36 kb)
Supplementary Information.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Southern California, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Department of Children, Youth, and FamiliesUSC Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society; USC Center for Mindfulness Science; USC Institute for Addiction ScienceLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and ControlCenters for Disease Control and PreventionBufordUSA
  3. 3.University of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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