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Understanding the Buffering Effects of Protective Factors on the Relationship between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Teen Dating Violence Perpetration

NCJ Number
Journal of Youth and Adolescence Volume: 48 Issue: 12 Dated: 2019 Pages: 2343-2359
J. P. Davis; et al
Date Published
17 pages

This study examined the buffering effects of protective factors on the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and teen dating violence perpetration.


Prior research has demonstrated the scope and impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on health and wellbeing; however, less is known about the trajectories from exposure to ACEs, such as witnessing family conflict and violence in the community, to teen dating violence perpetration, as well as the protective factors that buffer the association between early exposure to ACEs and later teen dating violence perpetration. In the current study, students (n = 1,611) completed self-report surveys six times during middle and high school from 2008 to 2013. In early middle school, the sub-sample was 50.2 percent female and racially/ethnically diverse: 47.7 percent Black, 36.4 percent White, 3.4 percent Hispanic, 1.7 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, and 10.8 percent other. Youth were, on average, 12.7 years old. Latent transition analysis was used to assess how trajectories of exposure to parental conflict and community violence during middle school transition into classes of teen dating violence perpetration (e.g., sexual, physical, threatening, relational, and verbal) in high school. Protective factors were then analyzed as moderators of the transition probabilities. Three class trajectories of ACEs during middle school were identified: decreasing family conflict and increasing community violence (n = 103; 6.4 percent), stable low family conflict and stable low community violence (n = 1027; 63.7 percent), stable high family conflict and stable high community violence (n = 481; 29.9 percent). A three-class solution for the perpetration of teen dating violence in high school was found: high all teen dating violence class (n = 113; 7.0 percent); physical and verbal only teen dating violence class (n = 335; 20.8 percent); and low all teen dating violence class (n = 1163; 72.2 percent). Social support, empathy, school belonging, and parental monitoring buffered some transitions from ACEs exposure trajectory classes to teen dating violence perpetration classes. Comprehensive prevention strategies that address multiple forms of violence while bolstering protective factors across the social ecology may buffer negative effects of exposure to violence in adolescence. (publisher abstract modified)