Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

17450 The Quality of Social Relationships and Sexual Violence Among Mexican American Youth

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 9:00 AM
Arlington (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Lela Rankin Williams, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Tucson, AZ
Background and Purpose: In adolescence, violent dating relationships are primarily characterized as mutual; mutually violent relationships are marked by increased rates of violence, and more severe forms of violence. Despite a growing body of literature on teen dating violence, Latinos in general and Mexican Americans specifically remain a vulnerable and understudied group. Latinos experience higher rates of violence and are more vulnerable due to an increased acceptance of violence. Understanding the factors that prevent severe forms of dating violence, specifically sexual violence, has relevance for prevention programming. The purpose of this study was to examine the quality of social relationships (parent, peer, romantic partner) as protective and risk factors for sexual violence perpetration and victimization among Mexican American youth.

Methods: Mexican American adolescents (N=148; 15-17 years, M=16.17, SD=.81) from an urban area in the Southwest participated in an online survey about the quality of their relationships with their parents, same sex best friend and romantic partner, as well as their perpetration and victimization of sexual violence with a dating partner in the past year. Measures included the Parent-Adolescent Communication Scale (openness and communication problems), the Network of Relationships Inventory (including alliance, power, antagonism, and conflict), and the Conflict in Adolescent Dating Relationships Inventory (including sexual victimization and perpetration, e.g., “I forced my partner to have sex when they didn't want to”).

Results: 41.5% of the sample perpetrated sexual violence, and 42.2% were victims of sexual violence, at least once in their romantic relationships in the past year. Risk factors for perpetration included antagonism and conflict with their romantic partner, OR=2.18 (CI=.91–5.19), p=.08 (trend level) and sexual victimization, OR=102.32 (CI=23.59–443.86), p<.001. Positive parent-adolescent communication was a protective factor, OR=.95 (CI=.91–.99), p=.02. Girls were 85% less likely than boys to perpetrate sexual violence (CI=.04-.66), p= .01. Risk factors for victimization included fathers with greater relative power, OR=2.29 (CI=1.17–4.50), p=.02 and perpetrating sexual violence OR=164.20 (CI=27.63–975.77), p<.001. Greater alliance with a same sex friend was a protective factor, OR=.55 (CI=.32–.96), p=.03. Girls were almost 6 times more likely to be victimized than boys (CI=1.13-29.87), p=.03. Level of acculturation was not significant in either model. Logistic Regression models for sexual violence perpetration and victimization accounted for 53.5% and 55.6% of the variance, respectively.

Conclusions and Implications: For many adolescents, sexual violence was experienced within romantic contexts; and sexual violence perpetration and victimization went hand in hand. That is, sexual violence perpetration and victimization were mutual predictors. Generally, research suggests that adolescent girls are more likely to perpetrate dating violence, but also experience victimization by severe forms of violence. However, in this study of Mexican Americans, boys were more likely to perpetrate sexual violence and girls were more likely to experience victimization. Culturally sensitive interventions are needed that strengthen the quality of the parent-adolescent relationship, and use same sex peers as support mechanisms, in order to prevent sexual violence.

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