Abstract: When Is Teasing Abuse? a Grounded Theory of Teasing Among Mexican American Adolescent Dating Couples (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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602P When Is Teasing Abuse? a Grounded Theory of Teasing Among Mexican American Adolescent Dating Couples

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Kim peace-Tuskey, MSW, Doctor of Public Health Student, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Heidi Rueda, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Texas at San Antonio, TX
Lela Williams, PhD, Associate Professor, Arizona State University, AZ

Background and Purpose: Recent research using the Conflict Tactics Scale finds that partner violence often takes place within “teasing" contexts. However, marital research suggests that humor is often a productive conflict repair mechanism. Further, teasing may be culturally influenced. For example, Hispanic families often utilize teasing and name-calling in relation to a person’s physiological characteristics such as weight or height. Such studies raise questions regarding if and when teasing may be considered abusive and whether studies with adults are relevant to youth. Research on the prevalence and contexts of relational teasing as it intersects with teen dating violence and other unique cultural contexts among Mexican American (MA) youth is needed.

Methods: Thirty-four MA hetero dating couples (aged 15-17 years old, M dating length = 11.71 months) from an urban city in a Southwestern border state completed an online survey and engaged in an audio and video-recorded interaction task in which couples discussed two relationship problems for 14 minutes. Thirty of the 34 video interviews contained teasing incidents. In-depth codification of videos and transcripts included the use of In Vivo, Emotion, and Values coding methods (Saldaña, 2016) which captured emic context and explored the cultural values, belief systems, and communication styles of the participants. This methodology assisted with the development of a grounded theory of teasing, which delineated youth's motivations for teasing and the behaviors and consequences that occurred.

Results: Findings indicate that the use of teasing was predominantly of two types, to exert power over one’s partner or as an attempt to repair the relationship. When exerting power, observed efforts were made to maintain control of the situation and subdue one’s partner during moments of conflict. Teasing incidents that attempted to repair the relationship were to express concerns about an identified issue and make a bid for change. This type of teasing demonstrated verbal and non-verbal requests to be listened to and understood by one’s partner. Each type of teasing generated a consequence. When a participant attempted to exert power, the observed consequence was a power struggle, hurt feelings, or shame. When a participant attempted to repair the relationship, the consequences were hurt feelings and shame.

Conclusions and Implications: This study recognized that teens' lived experiences and shared interactions are profoundly informative and often underrepresented. Findings suggest that MA adolescent couples navigate the need for a sense of control and a stable relationship through the use of teasing, which is a nuanced dynamic integral to the social culture of adolescents and influenced by cultural values and norms. Young couples need culturally competent support in finding means to communicate in healthy ways; the impact of teasing was harmful regardless of intent. Further research is needed to develop interventions that foster empowering relational communication skills for diverse youth.