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Social Relationships and Violence Trajectories from Adolescence through Early Adulthood into Adulthood

  • Author(s): Lim, June Young
  • Advisor(s): Aneshensel, Carol S
  • et al.
Abstract

Violence is a serious public health problem that is a threat to society as a whole. Even when it does not result in death, it takes a toll on victims, families, and communities. The processes by which people become violent, and then continue or discontinue being violent, are not well understood. Although it is one of the leading causes of death for people 1-44 years of age, much of the focus of violence research has focused on adolescents and the factors that contribute to the onset of violence at that stage of the life course. Less is known about patterns of violence over time and what factors contribute to its persistence and cessation. Furthermore, little is known about female violence, its patterns over time, and how it differs from male violence.

The overall goal of this dissertation is to elucidate the impact of relationships with parents, friends, and romantic partners over time on trajectories of violent behaviors from adolescence into early adulthood through adulthood. This study makes a significant contribution to the knowledge base on violence by: (1) identifying four trajectories of violent behaviors in adolescence through adulthood in the full sample and in gender-stratified subsamples, (2) explicating the effects of social relationships at different life stages on these trajectories, and (3) ascertaining the extent to which these processes differ for males and females. It is guided by important concepts from the life course perspective, attachment theory, and social control theory to explore the ways in which social relationships over time are associated with violent behaviors across these life stages. Secondary analysis of Waves 1-4 (1994 to 2008) from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N = 11,197) was conducted to achieve the goals of this dissertation.

There are a number of key findings from this study. First, four distinct trajectories of violence from adolescence through adulthood were identified in this dissertation in the full sample and for females and males. They are: low desister, high desister, chronic perpetrator, and late escalator. Although similar groups were found in the gender subsamples, the specific shapes and compositions of these groups vary somewhat for males and females. Second, child abuse victimization by a parent and associating with delinquent friends during adolescence increase the risk of violence and significantly distinguish violence trajectories. These negative aspects of parent and friend relationships have proximal, distal, and persistent effects on violence perpetration and were found in the full sample in males and females. Third, romantic partnerships can be both deterrents to and provocations of violence. The direction of influence of romantic partnership depends on age, or life stage, the type of violence trajectory group a person is most likely to be assigned to, and gender. Fourth, violence victimization begets violence perpetration. Experiencing violence victimization is a very strong predictor of membership in a group that has increased or prolonged levels of violence for the full sample and for females and males. Five, the influence of certain social relationships on trajectories of violence vary by gender, emphasizing the importance of understanding how these processes vary by gender.

It is important that factors that put people at increased risk of violence be diminished, while simultaneously stimulating those that deter violence in order to decrease its pernicious and destructive reach. By elucidating the processes by which social relationships act as encouragements to or deterrents of violence at varying time points between adolescence and adulthood, this dissertation highlights opportunities for the reduction and/or prevention of violence couched within an understanding of what period on the life course might be more sensitive to intervention.

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