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Correlates of Cyber Dating Abuse Among Teens


Recent advancements in technology (e.g., social networking, texting) have created new ways for dating youth to relate to one another, including in abusive ways via “cyber dating abuse.” Cyber dating abuse is a form of teen dating violence that overlaps with other types of abuse (e.g., psychological) but also has several unique characteristics. Given the phenomenon’s limited presence in dating violence literature, we focus on identifying how experiencing cyber dating abuse relates to youths’ individual behaviors and experiences (e.g., substance use, sexual activity), psychosocial adjustment, school connection, family relationships, and partner relationships. A total of 3,745 youth (52 % female, 74 % White) in three northeastern states participated in the survey and reported currently being in a dating relationship or having been in one during the prior year. We found that experiences of cyber dating abuse were most significantly correlated with being female, committing a greater variety of delinquent behaviors, having had sexual activity in one’s lifetime, having higher levels of depressive symptoms, and having higher levels of anger/hostility. Further, cyber dating abuse appeared somewhat more strongly related to depressive symptoms and delinquency than did other forms of teen dating violence and abuse.

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This project was supported by Award No. 2010-WG-BX-003, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions and recommendations expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice, or of the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders. Elements of this paper were reported to the National Institute of Justice in the form of a final technical report as per grant obligations. The authors would like to thank: (1) the administrators, faculty, and staff of schools who assisted us in collecting the data documented in this report, (2) CJ Pascoe of Colorado College and Cindy Southworth, Erica Olsen, and Sarah Tucker of the National Network to End Domestic Violence for their input on survey measures, and (3) the National Institute of Justice and Dr. Nancy La Vigne, Director of the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, for their careful review of project findings.

Author Contributions

JZ and MD conceived of the larger study, directed and participated in its design and coordination, and assisted in writing of the manuscript; PL participated in the study’s design and coordination, performed most statistical analyses, and assisted in writing of the manuscript; JY assisted in the study’s design and interpretation of the data, performed some statistical analyses, and assisted in writing of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Janine M. Zweig.

Appendix: Description of Scale Items

Appendix: Description of Scale Items

See Tables 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17.

Table 6 Items for cyber dating abuse (α = 0.907)
Table 7 Items for physical dating violence victimization (α = 0.896)
Table 8 Items for psychological dating abuse (α = 0.897)
Table 9 Items for sexual coercion victimization (α = 0.737)
Table 10 Items for drug use, last 30 days (Communities that Care 2006) (α = 0.776)
Table 11 Items for delinquency (Communities that Care 2006) (α = 0.734)
Table 12 Items for prosocial activities (α = 0.652) (Add Health Wave I)
Table 13 Items for psychosocial measures, past 7 days (Symptom Assessment-45)
Table 14 Items for family domain
Table 15 Items for positive relationship qualities (α = 0.973)
Table 16 Items for computer activities (α = 0.658)
Table 17 Items for cell phone activities (α = 0.773)

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Zweig, J.M., Lachman, P., Yahner, J. et al. Correlates of Cyber Dating Abuse Among Teens. J Youth Adolescence 43, 1306–1321 (2014).

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  • Teen dating violence
  • Cyber dating abuse
  • Victimization