A Qualitative Study of Adolescent Girls’ Motives to Change Dating Abuse Perpetration Behavior Elicited during a Motivational Interviewing Intervention

  • Katelin Blackburn
  • Tiffany Christensen
  • Charlotte Miller
  • Megan Bair-Merritt
  • Emily F. RothmanEmail author
Original Article


Adolescent dating abuse (ADA) is a prevalent and consequential public health problem. However, there are no studies to date that explore what adolescents who have perpetrated ADA say would motivate their cessation. The aim of this study is to uncover self-reported reasons why girls might be motivated to stop perpetrating ADA. This study repurposed interview transcripts that were originally collected as part of a test of an intervention. The present analyses was of transcripts from 75 adolescent girls, ages 15–19 years old, recruited from the outpatient and emergency pediatric clinics of an urban hospital, who had perpetrated ≥1 act of physical or sexual ADA in the past three months. Recordings were transcribed and coded for emergent themes using a content-based analysis approach. Analysis revealed that the youth felt motivated to decrease ADA perpetration for five main reasons: (1) to achieve their life goals without criminal justice involvement or experiencing other barriers to success, (2) to decrease feelings of relationship fatigue and exhaustion, (3) to avoid embarrassment, (4) to rescue their present relationship and not break up, and (5) to be prepared to handle conflicts more peacefully in future relationships. This is the first study to explore motives for stopping ADA perpetration in a sample of adolescents. The results provide a starting point for accumulating information that may be leveraged by clinicians and prevention experts to design secondary and tertiary prevention programs that effectively appeal to young perpetrators of ADA and enhance their interest in ceasing perpetration.


Dating violence Adolescent dating abuse Aggression perpetration Motives 



This project was supported by Award No. 2013-VA-CX-0001, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pediatrics in the Boston Combined Residency Program, Boston Medical CenterBoston Children’s Hospital and Boston University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Community Health SciencesBoston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.Boston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of PediatricsBoston Medical Center and Boston University School of MedicineBostonUSA

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