The study used an innovative, qualitative community-based research design. The sample included 90 men and women between the ages of 18 â€“ 21 who lived in Portage, Medina and Summit counties who had experienced troubled or violent dating relationships as teens. A collaborative team of Kent State University and community-based researchers conducted in-depth interviews to obtain narratives of the participantsâ€™ responses to dating violence and detailed descriptions of the violent events they experienced. The data, supplemented by narratives of professionals who work with adolescents at risk for dating violence, will enable the researchers to develop a theoretical model to reveal how violence unfolds over the course of adolescence.
Draucker, a 22-year veteran faculty member and Kent State University Distinguished Professor says, â€œWe are particularly proud that this study includes the perspectives of both men and women who experienced abusive relationships, as this will provide a more complete view of troubled relationships and dating violence.â€
Although the data are still being analyzed, some early findings have emerged. Violence in adolescent dating relationships, which is often used by both partners, ranges from mild put-downs to life-threatening physical assaults. Also, electronic communication technologies such as cell phones and the Internet play a significant role in teen dating violence.
Martsolf adds, â€œWhat has probably interested me the most is the fact that we have been able to analyze detailed stories of nearly 400 specific events of violence among dating teens ranging from put-downs to events involving weapons and police. Obviously these events are quite different but we have been able to group them into approximately eight types of events. The teen couplesâ€™ relationships also varied based on the types of events that were common to the couple.â€ She adds, â€œWe think that this knowledge will be very helpful in planning both prevention and intervention programs for the various types of teen couples in troubled dating relationships.â€
The data also reveal that teens often deflect warnings from others that their relationships are troubled because teens rarely heed warnings from adult authorities and often feel criticized when adults express concern about the relationships. Therfore, the researchers are developing an intervention in which teens are paired with young adult mentors. In sessions with their mentors, teens have an opportunity to discuss their dating relationships without feeling judged or criticized. The researchers believe that such conversations may prevent dating violence from starting. The mentoring intervention is being piloted in Fall 2011. Kent State University senior nursing students, who are doing rotations in psychiatric mental health and community nursing, serve as mentors to teens whose families are receiving services at the Battered Womenâ€™s Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties. The teens are encouraged to confide in their mentors and share their dating experiences.
Ultimately the goal of this ground-breaking nursing research is to develop prevention programs to help young people avoid or circumvent dating violence and to increase community awareness of the problem.