Abstract: School-Level Predictors of Teen Dating Violence Perpetration (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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277P School-Level Predictors of Teen Dating Violence Perpetration

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
April Cavaletto, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
John Cagle, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Laurie Graham, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland at Baltimore, MD
Background: Research on teen dating violence (TDV) has focused largely on individual- and family-level predictors of such violence. However, because most TDV prevention programs occur in school settings, research on the connection between school characteristics and TDV perpetration is needed. Such research can help inform the development and implementation of more effective school-based programs. As such, this study explores whether school-level variables (i.e., school connectedness, teaching quality, student behavior, school security, expectations for classmates to graduate, and school type) predict TDV perpetration while controlling for demographic variables and common predictors of TDV.

Methods: Participants included 923 youth from Year 15 (collected 2014-2017) of the Fragile Families and Children Wellbeing Study who were dating someone and attending a school other than homeschool. Youth age ranged from 14-19 years (M= 15.68, SD= .80). Among participants, 483 (52.33%) were male at birth, and 440 (47.67%) were female at birth. Most youth identified as Black/African American only (52.33%), Hispanic (21.67%), and White only (15.17%).

TDV was measured using an affirmative response to at least one of the following questions: “You put current partner down in front of other people” (psychological aggression), and “You push, hit, or throw something at current partner” (physical violence). These items were combined and then recoded into a dichotomous variable (0=never used violence and 1=any report of using violence) due to low counts in some categories. The model controlled for age of teen, involvement in free/reduced lunch, sex at birth of teen, skipping school, and alcohol consumption. The model was assessed for multicollinearity, outliers, and normality of predictor variables.

We used descriptive statistics to describe the sample and logistic regression to estimate the predictive impact of school-level characteristics on TDV perpetration.

Results: Approximately 8.9% (n= 82) of the sample reported perpetrating TDV with their current partner. Specifically, 4.55% (n= 42) reported putting their current partner down in front of other people, and 5.96% (n= 55) reported pushing, hitting, or throwing something at their current partner.

Teaching quality (p > .01, OR: 0.89), school type (p > .01, OR: 3.62), and student expectations for classmates to graduate (p > .01, OR: 2.03) were significantly associated with TDV perpetration. For each one unit increase in teaching quality in the school, youth had 11% lower odds of perpetrating TDV. Youth who attended public schools had 262% higher odds of perpetrating TDV than youth who attended private, religious, or parochial schools. Youth who expected “some or few” of their classmates to graduate had 103% higher odds of perpetrating TDV than youth who expected “all or most” of their classmates to graduate. School connectedness, student behavior across the school, and presence of security at the school were not significantly associated with TDV perpetration.

Implications: These findings suggest providing opportunities for mentorship and/or quality relationships with teachers may contribute to TDV prevention. Implications for prevention strategies targeting the community-level of the social-ecological model will be discussed, including prevention resource allocation and identifying characteristics of community settings that may be protective against TDV perpetration.