Method: This research uses prospective data from a racially diverse sample of 240 adolescent mothers recruited from community settings. Adolescent intimate partner violence was measured using seven questions from the Conflict Tactics Scale which assessed psychological, minor physical and severe physical violence. Questions were also included as to the respondents' description of themselves in relation to IPV. Data were condensed to represent five age periods in the women's lives. Retention rates ranged from 85.7% – 99.6% across the 17 waves of data collection. Descriptive and conditional probability analyses were conducted to determine patterns of IPV.
Results: Descriptive results show that 83.8% of adolescent mothers reported at least one episode of IPV from approximately mean age of 16.6 to 33.8, with 58.6% reporting at least one episode of severe IPV (hit, beaten up, threatened with or having a weapon used). Over half of the women reported experiencing all three forms of violence (psychological, minor physical and severe physical); 1.8% reported only experiencing psychological violence. Over time, the percent reporting IPV at a particular timepoint dropped from 26.0% to 11.0%. However, 44.7% of women reported some form of IPV at more than half the time periods measured. In addition to the 15.9% who reported no IPV, conditional probability analyses identified three patterns of IPV exposure: exposure in adolescence only (13.0%), sporadic exposure during adolescence and adulthood (64.9%), and exposure in every age period (6.2%). For the women who reported ever experiencing IPV, 90.3% saw the event as an instance of abuse, 74.9% felt they were a victim of violence, but only 56.6% labeled themselves as a battered woman.
Implications: IPV is a common experience for adolescent mothers, both during adolescence and early adulthood. This victimization is not trivial – the majority of women reported serious, potentially life-threatening abuse, and almost half experienced some form of IPV chronically. While some women aged out of IPV once adolescence was over, for the majority who experienced IPV during adolescence, they reexperienced abuse again during adulthood. Despite the chronicity and severity of the IPV reported, just slightly more than half of those who had experienced IPV considered themselves to be battered. Social workers and researchers should be mindful of the ubiquity of IPV when planning services or research with adolescent mothers.