Abstract: Dating Violence in Young Adults with a History of Foster Care: A 10-Year Longitudinal Study (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Dating Violence in Young Adults with a History of Foster Care: A 10-Year Longitudinal Study

Friday, January 18, 2019: 9:30 AM
Union Square 14 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Heather Taussig, PhD, Professor, Associate Dean for Research, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Katie Massey Combs, MSW, MSPH, Doctoral Candidate, University of Denver, CO
Background: Young adults with a history of maltreatment and foster care are at significant risk for dating violence (DV) perpetration and victimization. The identification of factors that precede the onset of DV (as identified through longitudinal, as opposed to cross-sectional research) are critical for developing sensitive prevention programming. The purpose of this study was to identify early risk and protective factors for DV among young adults (ages 18-22) with a history of maltreatment and placement in foster care.

Methods: The study examined data collected from multiple sources at 3 earlier time points (from preadolescence through middle adolescence) over 9.5 years. Participants (N=243) for the current young-adult study were recruited for enrollment if they had been enrolled in the Fostering Healthy Futures study during the summers of 2002-2009 and were currently between the ages of 18-22. Of the 243 participants who were recruited, 215 (88.5%) were interviewed. Young adults were interviewed about dating violence perpetration and victimization and data from earlier time points (including measures of adverse experiences, trauma symptoms, social functioning, and behavioral functioning) were used to predict dating violence involvement in young adulthood.

Results: An overwhelming majority of young adults reported perpetrating, as well as being the victim of, at least one past-year incident of DV. Abuse subtype incidence rates were quite variable, with emotional/verbal abuse having the highest rates of perpetration and victimization, and sexual abuse having the lowest rates. Exposure in preadolescence to moral/legal maltreatment (defined as the caregiver exposing or involving the child in illegal activity) led to greater dating violence victimization in young adulthood. Early adolescent trauma symptoms, behavior problems, and victimization were associated with more young-adult DV perpetration and victimization. Attachment to caregivers in adolescence was negatively associated with both DV perpetration and victimization. Most predictors remained significant after controlling for baseline risk factors.

Conclusions and Implications: This longitudinal study provides a first look at the dating violence involvement of young adults with a history of foster care placement and associated risk and protective factors for such involvement over nearly a decade. The results suggest that the vast majority of young adults who have been the victims of maltreatment have been involved in past-year dating violence, although the extent of that involvement varies greatly. Perpetration and victimization were highly correlated, suggesting that complementary interventions are warranted. Early adolescent victimization, trauma symptoms and behavior/substance use problems in early adolescence and young adulthood were related to DV perpetration and victimization, while social support was associated with decreased risk of DV involvement. All of these risk and protective factors are amenable to intervention and have important implications for policy and practice within the juvenile justice, mental health and child welfare systems.