Chronic and Acute Relational Risk Factors for Dating Aggression in Adolescence and Young Adulthood

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology, The Relationship Center


Dating aggression is a prevalent and costly public health concern. Using a relational risk framework, this study examined acute and chronic relational risk factors (negative interactions, jealousy, support, and relationship satisfaction) and their effects on physical and psychological dating aggression. The study also examined the interaction between chronic and acute risk, allowing us to assess how changes in acute risk have differing effects depending on whether the individual is typically at higher chronic risk. A sample of 200 youth (100 female) completed seven waves of data, which spanned 9 years from middle adolescence to young adulthood (M age at Wave 1 = 15.83). Using hierarchical linear modeling, analyses revealed both acute (within-person) and chronic (between-person) levels in jealousy, negative interactions, and relationship satisfaction, were associated with physical and psychological dating aggression. Significant interactions between chronic and acute risk emerged in predicting physical aggression for negative interactions, jealousy, and relationship satisfaction such that those with higher levels of chronic risk are more vulnerable to increases in acute risk. These interactions between chronic and acute risk indicate that risk is not static, and dating aggression is particularly likely to occur at certain times for youth at high risk for dating aggression. Such periods of increased risk may provide opportunities for interventions to be particularly effective in preventing dating aggression or its consequences. Taken together, these findings provide support for the role of relational risk factors for dating aggression. They also underscore the importance of considering risk dynamically.

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