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YOUNG WOMEN'S EXPERIENCES OF DATING ABUSE: A MULTI-METHOD ANALYSIS OF THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN DEPRESSION AND SUICIDAL IDEATION, RISKY BEHAVIORS, AND ABUSE IN DATING RELATIONSHIPS

  • Author(s): Burton, Candace Windham
  • Advisor(s): Humphreys, Janice C
  • et al.
Abstract

A significant percentage of adolescents involved in dating relationships experience dating abuse. Adolescent dating abuse has been linked to diverse health-related outcomes including depression, risky behavior, and suicidal ideation. Little literature has yet examined the effects of adolescent dating abuse on young women's health in adulthood. The purpose of this study was to develop better understanding of the experiences and health consequences of abusive dating relationships among young women. Specific aims were to discover how young women define and describe abuse in adolescent dating relationships, explore the occurrence of depression and suicidal ideation as outcomes among young women who experienced such abuse, and explore engagement in risky behaviors concurrent with and as outcomes among young women who experienced adolescent dating abuse. Data were collected via questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. Questionnaires were completed by 100 community-based women, ages 19 to 35, who self-reported an experience of adolescent dating abuse. Ten of these women also completed interviews with the primary investigator.

Participants reported a variety of abusive behaviors in their adolescent dating relationships. The average length of the abusive relationship was 36 months, and participants were between the ages of 11 and 20 at the time of the relationship. Threatening and emotionally or verbally abusive behavior by the partner were most often reported. All participants reported fear of their partner at some time during the relationship.

As adults, participants rated their health an average of 8.15 out of 10. Depression was common however, with 41% reporting moderate to severe depressive symptoms. Participants also described a variety of ways they felt the experience of adolescent dating abuse had affected them, including influencing self-image or self-concept, instilling fear that something could happen to them or their children, and causing them to question relationships with others.

The results of this study demonstrate the complex nature of adolescent dating abuse and its potential to affect adult health and wellbeing. This study also demonstrates the fullness of lifetime risks that may be associated with adolescent dating abuse. Seeking ways to alleviate this risk is an important task for those practicing with adolescent and young adult populations.

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