The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Reducing Teen Dating Violence Among Mexican Heritage Youth: A Mediational Model for Behavioral Change

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 8:00 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 103A Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Lela Rankin Williams, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Tucson, AZ
Background and Purpose:

Compared to White youth in the U.S., Latino youth witness higher rates of violence in their homes and report greater and more severe forms of violence in their dating relationships, schools, and communities (e.g., street gangs, weapons, physical fighting; Smokowski et al., 2009). Mexican American (MA) youth in particular may be more likely to justify violence as a successful conflict resolution strategy (Black & Weisz, 2008). Effective teen dating violence (TDV) prevention for immigrant and U.S.-born MA youth is both under-developed and under-studied; although as a group MA youth possess both unique risk factors for TDV as well as resiliencies and cultural resources. The goal of the present study is to test a mediational model for behavioral change that can be implemented in a TDV prevention intervention in the Latino community.


Mexican American adolescents (N=210; 15-17 years, M=16.17, SD=.81) from an urban area in the Southwest participated in an online survey and completed information on risk and protective factors across the ecosystem (machismo, substance use, friendship quality, romantic relationship quality, and parental warmth), acceptance of dating violence norms (e.g., “it is okay for a boy to hit his girlfriend if she did something to make him mad”), and perpetration of dating violence in their current or most recent dating relationship, including: physical (e.g., hitting, throwing objects), emotional/verbal (e.g., name-calling, being controlled), relational (e.g., spreading rumors), threatening behavior (e.g., threatening to destroy something/hurt), and sexual (force/pressure to participate in unwanted sexual activity). The sample was 22.7% 1st generation (Mexican born), 53.3% 2nd generation (parent(s) Mexican born, adolescents US born), and 24.1% 3rd generation or higher (parents and adolescents US born).


Using Mplus, a good model fit was found for the proposed mediational path model, χ2(27) = 45.35, p=.02, RMSEA = .06, CFI=.97, TLI=.95. Acceptance of dating violence norms among Mexican American adolescents fully mediated the relationship between certain risk and protective factors and teen dating violence perpetration. That is, maternal warmth, romantic relationship intimacy, and friendships that are helpful are associated with reduced acceptance of dating violence norms, which in turn, is associated with reduced perpetration of dating violence. Machismo, friendships that are higher in conflict, and illegal drug use in the past two weeks are associated with greater acceptance of dating violence norms, which in turn, is associated with greater perpetration of dating violence. Conflict in current dating relationships had both a direct and an indirect relationship to dating violence perpetration through acceptance of dating violence norms.

Conclusions and Implications:

This model provides evidence to support acceptance of dating violence norms as an effective mediator in TDV interventions. Acceptance of dating violence norms fully explained the associations between certain risk and protective factors and dating violence perpetration. This is noteworthy given the potential for norms to be more amenable to change than stable personal-level characteristics.  In order to promote positive social change in the Latino community (i.e., reduce and prevent dating violence), we need to target Mexican American adolescents beliefs around dating violence norms.