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

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.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Cooperative Agreement U81/CCU417778 and research grants R01 CE001397 and R49 CE000562. The findings and conclusions in this study are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the funder.

Author contributions

P.O. is the principal investigator of the longitudinal study, conceived the study, and coordinated and drafted the manuscript; H.H. participated in the design and conducted the statistical analyses of the data; X.S. participated in the design and supervised the interpretation of results; K.H. participated in the design and helped to draft the introduction and conclusions sections; L.N. participated in the design of the study, performed statistical analyses and drafted the methods section. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Pamela Orpinas.

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Orpinas, P., Hsieh, HL., Song, X. et al. Trajectories of Physical Dating Violence from Middle to High School: Association with Relationship Quality and Acceptability of Aggression. J Youth Adolescence 42, 551–565 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-012-9881-5

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Keywords

  • Trajectories
  • Physical dating violence
  • Acceptability of dating aggression
  • Relationship quality
  • Adolescence