Victimization during childhood and revictimization in dating relationships in adolescent girls

Marie-Hélène Gagné, Francine Lavoie, Martine Hébert
Child Abuse & Neglect 2005, 29 (10): 1155-72

OBJECTIVE: Various experiences with violence during childhood and adolescence (parental violence, exposure to marital violence, sexual abuse within and outside the family, sexual harassment at school, community violence, involvement with violent or victimized peers, and previous dating violence) are examined as potential risk factors for psychological, physical, and sexual revictimization in adolescent girls' dating relationships.

METHOD: A group of 917 teenage girls (mean age = 16.3) were recruited in 5 high schools located in low to middle socioeconomic areas. Participants were in the 10th and 11th grades, and each completed a self-administered questionnaire. Analyses were performed on the 622 participants who reported having at least one dating partner in the last 12 months.

RESULTS: Prevalence rates for past victimization experiences varied from 13% to 43%. Regarding last-year dating victimization, prevalence rates varied from 25% to 37%, depending on the type of violence sustained. Results suggest that extrafamilial experiences with violence are stronger risk factors for recent dating victimization than intrafamilial experiences, especially being sexually harassed by male peers at school and being involved with violent or victimized peers during the year preceding the survey. However, it is important to differentiate between girls who are repeatedly victims of violence in a single, long-term relationship (repeat dating victimization), and girls who are revictimized by different partners (dating revictimization), the former sustaining more frequent physical and psychological violence than the latter.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings underline the importance of early prevention of adolescent dating violence. Prevention programs should especially address extrafamilial experiences with violence as important risk factors for victimization in dating relationships, and teach girls strategies to break up abusive relationships.

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