Methods: A subset of African American youth was drawn from a larger study of cumulative violence and trauma in Detroit, Michigan. The sample (60.6% girls and 39.4% boys) was recruited through after community outreach centers and included youth between the ages of 11-17 (mean=13.6 and sd=1.4). Data were collected through paper and pencil surveys addressing background characteristics (age, gender, receipt of public assistance, and academic performance,), community violence (e.g. seeing people sell drugs, hearing/witnessing gunfire), childhood adversity (child maltreatment, sexual victimization and loss of a parent/caregiver or sibling) and physical (e.g. pushing, slapping) and verbal dating aggression (e.g insulting/swearing at, shouting/yelling at when angry). 84 % of the youth were currently in a dating/romantic relationship, and dating aggression questions focused on the youths' current or most recent relationship. Multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVA) and univariate analyses of variance (ANOVA) with a Bonferroni adjustment were used to examine the the association of background characteristics, community violence and childhood adversity with perpetration of verbal and physical dating violence.
Results: 32.7% of the youth reported verbal dating aggression and 18.8% reported physical dating aggression in their current/most recent relationship. Girls were significantly more likely to report verbal aggression (χ² = 6.58; p=0.011), while no significant differences for physical aggression were found. MANOVA results indicate youth reporting dating aggression were significantly more likely to be female, academic difficulties, lost a parent/caregiver or sibling and have a history of sexual victimization and child maltreatment (p < 0.05). Age and the witnessing community violence were not significantly associated with dating aggression. Verbal perpetration was significantly higher for female youth, and those with a history of child maltreatment (p<0.025). Physical dating aggression was significantly associated with poor academic performance, loss of a parent/sibling, and sexual victimization (p<0.025).
Conclusion: Results suggest community violence was not a significant factor associated with dating aggression and that adverse interpersonal experiences may have a stronger association with verbal and physical dating aggression among low-income African American youth. Findings suggest girls who experience child maltreatment may be particularly at risk for verbal dating aggression, and youth who experience sexual victimization and the loss of close family members may be particularly at risk for perpetration of physical aggression. Results also suggest that childhood adversities (e.g. child maltreatment) were differentially associated with different types of dating violence. Findings provide insight into the characteristics of youth who may need additional supports in order to prevent involvement with dating violence.