Controlling Behaviors and Intimate Partner Violence Among Adolescents Who Are Dating
Purpose/Background: The present study investigated the relationship between controlling behaviors, violent attitudes, and partner violence among adolescents in an intimate relationship. Research indicates that controlling behaviors are predictors of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) perpetration. Controlling structures imposing rigid sex-role expectations can lead to emotional abuse and set the stage for violence to occur in relationships (Tolman, 1989; Tolman & Bennett, 1990). Partners using controlling tactics such as prohibiting their partner from going to work or school are eight times more common in abusive relationships than non-abusive relationships (Allard, Albelda, Colten, & Cosenza, 1997). Additionally, a study found that men arrested for IPV found that 38.1% prevented their partners from freely coming and going in their daily routine, 58.5% restricted their partners access to money, and almost one-half reported restricting their partners in three or more ways (Buzawa, Hotaling, Klein, &Byrne, 1999). These findings correlating IPV and controlling behaviors came from adults samples. The literature regarding adolescent samples is limited. Therefore, these findings suggest the need for studies to explore the relationship between controlling behaviors and partner violence among adolescents.
Methods: The present study used a cross-sectional design where surveys were administered to high school students consisted of ninth to twelfth grade students at a public high school in the Intermountain West. Participants needed to have been in an intimate relationship within the last six months. A total of 1071 high school students completed surveys. Instruments measured controlling behaviors, dating violence attitudes and behaviors.
Results: Results reveal high prevalence of dating violence in high schools: 46% emotional violence, 34% physical violence, and 16% sexual violence. Additional demographics reveal the high school students (Mean age = 15.7) Fifty-one percent of the sample was female and 66% of participants were in a current relationship. Multivariate analysis found that controlling behaviors significantly predicted violent attitudes, which significantly predicted partner violence and victimization. Additionally, results suggest that controlling behaviors partially mediated the relationship between violent attitudes and IPV perpetration and IPV victimization. However, when controlling for controlling behaviors violent attitudes had a negative effect on IPV perpetration and IPV victimization.
Conclusion/Implications: Findings from the study reveal the powerful effects of controlling behaviors on adolescents, and the difference between violent attitudes only and violent behaviors to an intimate partner. The study revealed that coercive control did mediate the predictive relationship between controlling behaviors on IPV perpetration and IPV victimization. Interestingly, if you did not have controlling behaviors and the participants only had violent attitudes their IPV perpetrations reduced. These findings suggest that coercive control not only leads to violent perpetration but also leads to violent victimization. This leads to a unique view of the complex nature of the consequences of IPV and controlling behaviors. Professionals working with adolescents should be aware of the adverse consequences of dating violence may negatively affect academic achievement. The findings of this study reveal that controlling behaviors in dating relationships among adolescents should be valuable for social workers charged with addressing consequences of dating violence.