Abstract: State Teen Dating Violence School Policy: Do Political Factors Matter? (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

579P State Teen Dating Violence School Policy: Do Political Factors Matter?

Saturday, January 19, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Beverly Black, PhD, Jillian Michelle Smith Professor in Family Violence Research, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Kristen Ravi, Doctoral Student, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Richard Hoefer, PhD, Professor, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Background: Teen dating violence (TDV) is a very real problem, and its negative consequences are well documented in the literature. A substantial body of research demonstrates that TDV programs impact TDV knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Studies indicate that students who did not complete a TDV intervention have significantly higher odds of physical and emotional TDV victimization and emotional TDV perpetration.  According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), several states mandate TDV prevention programming in the schools; some additional states urge/allow/permit states to provide TDV programming in schools. Other states have statutes addressing TDV (e.g., policies to address incidents of TDV) but do not mandate prevention programs. This paper examines how a state’s political culture and political control correlates with TDV policy strength. We hypothesized that political party control of a state's governorship, Senate, and House influences passage of TDV legislation.

Methodology: In this exploratory study, the NCSL website was used to determine which states had TDV school policies. We assessed TDV policy strength using a project-created rating system grounded in existing TDV prevention and policy literature. Policy strength ranged from 0-13 with higher scores indicating stronger policies. We coded the political party of the governor 1 for Democrat and 0 for Republican. Partisan majority in the House and the Senate were coded 1 for Democrat and 0 for Republican/split. Political culture was operationalized using Elazar's theory of state political culture which includes eight categories ranging from moralistic to traditionalist and was measured continuously. We used logistic regression to identify predictors of state TDV policy and used multiple linear regression to examine predictors of the strength of the policy. We conducted an independent samples t-test to analyze the difference between mean policy strength of states with Republican and Democrat majority Houses.

Results: Twenty-six states have TDV school policies. The outcome of the logistic regression analysis suggests that states with Democratic governors are more likely to have TDV school legislation. However, the result of the multiple regression analysis indicates that Republican control of the state House (β= -.53, p=.03) predicted stronger legislation. States with Republican majority or split Houses had a mean policy strength of 8.78 (SD=4.40) compared to Democratic majority Houses (M=5.23, SD=4.72, p=.08). Regarding political culture, a dominant moralist political culture (β=-.35, p=.10) significantly predicted stronger TDV school policy. These findings suggest that although states with Democratic governors are more likely to have a TDV school policy; states with a Republican House majority have stronger policies. Additionally, states with moralistic political cultures (i.e., concerned with community wellbeing) have stronger TDV school policies.

Conclusions and Implications: This research begins to identify political party control as an important determinant of the strength of TDV policy.  This upholds the common-sense notion that who gets elected is a vital determinant of the policy that emerges. We argue that, like any other social problem, the prevention of TDV should be perceived from the policy and value perspective. Research should look at how political views and culture influences policy affecting TDV victims and/or perpetrators.