Teen dating violence (TDV) is a public health concern. A substantial body of research demonstrates that TDV is associated with poor health outcomes including higher levels of depression, eating disorders, drug abuse, poor psychosocial functioning and suicidal ideation. This study examined graduating MSW students’ recommended interventions when presented with a TDV vignette and assessed personal and programmatic factors associated with their recommended interventions.
A sample of 131 graduating MSW students from two large public universities in the southern United States completed an online survey about TDV. Of the 131 respondents, 49 answered an open-ended question asking them to recommend interventions in a TDV vignette involving two female high school students in a same-sex relationship.
Content analysis was utilized to transform the qualitative responses into quantitative data. The first and second author coded the responses independently and then met to reconcile areas of original disagreement. Students’ qualitative responses were coded dichotomously into categories concerning the type of interventions they recommended (i.e., healthy relationship education, counseling, an assessment, or safety planning). Pearson’s chi square tests and logistic regression were utilized to identify factors related to intervention recommendations.
Separate models were created with each type of intervention serving as the dependent variable (i.e., healthy relationship education, counseling, an assessment, or safety planning) was coded with a 1 if the student recommended it and a 0 if they did not. Independent variables included self-assessed TDV competency, MSW coursework preparation, physical IPV victimization and perpetration, and psychological IPV victimization and perpetration. Physical and psychological IPV perpetration and victimization were assessed using the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS-2). Alphas on the subscales ranged from (.84-.94). Age, gender, race, and holding a BSW were controlled.
Personal experiences significantly predicted the type of intervention that students recommended. Students who experienced psychological IPV victimization were more likely to recommend healthy relationship education compared to students with no psychological IPV victimization (X2(1, N=49)=7.73, p=.003). Students who reported that their MSW program prepared them to address TDV were more likely to provide couples counseling (X2(1, N=49)=3.52, p=.03). However, students who perpetrated physical IPV (OR= .15, p=.02), experienced physical IPV victimization (OR=.16, p=.02), or psychological IPV victimization (OR=.18, p=.04) were less likely to suggest couples counseling. These students were almost seven times more likely to recommend that an assessment be conducted (OR=6.85, p=.03). Students who felt competent to address TDV were less likely to recommend a safety plan (OR=.24, p=.02).
Conclusions and Implications
Findings from this study speak to the importance of teaching students about evidence-based practices for TDV, critical to addressing the social work grand challenge of stopping family violence. Students’ recommendations for couples counseling over safety planning suggest that graduate MSW programs may not address safety concerns inherent in couples counseling with individuals experiencing relationship violence or that students minimize safety concerns experienced by same sex couples. Future research should explore TDV content within MSW programs and assess how students and alumni are addressing violence in real contexts.