Acceptability of Dating Violence and Expectations of Relationship Harm among Adolescent Girls Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence.

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Adolescents, Dating violence, Witnessing violence, Hostile sexism, Implicit associations


Objective: Little is known about the factors that contribute to adolescents’ perceptions of the acceptability of dating violence, particularly among girls who have witnessed intimate partner violence (IPV). Drawing on relevant theory, the current study tests a path model linking frequency of witnessing IPV in childhood, sexist beliefs, and automatic relationship-to-harm associations to acceptability of dating violence. Method: Participants were 79 female adolescents with a mean age of 16.08 years (SD = 1.52) involved in the child welfare system. Participants self-reported frequency of witnessing IPV in childhood, ambivalent sexism, and acceptability of dating violence. A lexical-decision task assessed implicit relationship-to-harm priming, which reflects the degree to which people automatically assume that relationships include harm. Results: Consistent with hypotheses, frequency of witnessing IPV was significantly associated with strength of implicit relationship-to-harm associations. Implicit relationship-to-harm associations and hostile sexism were significantly associated with girls’ attitudes that dating violence is acceptable. There was a significant indirect effect of witnessing IPV and acceptability of dating violence through relationship-to-harm associations. Conclusion: The current study provides information that is relevant to dating violence intervention among adolescent girls. Interventions that target girls’ schema about relationships—making explicit that healthy relationships do not involve harm—and include education about sexism in society are likely to decrease dating violence risk over time.

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