The role of peer group aggression in predicting adolescent dating violence and relationship quality

Wendy E Ellis, Janet Chung-Hall, Tara M Dumas
Journal of Youth and Adolescence 2013, 42 (4): 487-99
Past research has shown that adolescent peer groups make a significant contribution to shaping behavior but less is known about the role of peer groups in adolescent dating relationships. This longitudinal study examined the contribution of aggressive peer group norms on relationship quality and dating violence among dating adolescents. At the beginning of the school year (T1) and 6 months later (T2), participants (n = 1,070; M(age) = 15.45; 49 % Female) provided self-reports of attitudes towards aggression, and physically- and relationally-aggressive behaviors. Peer groups were identified using a peer-nomination technique and aggressive behaviors and attitudes were averaged across peer groups. Participants with dating experience (n = 598) reported on the frequency of their experience with dating violence (both as a victim and perpetrator). Multilevel analyses indicated that peer group relational aggression at T1 positively predicted dating abuse victimization and perpetration, and negatively predicted relationship quality at T2, beyond individual predictions. An unexpected finding was that membership in physically aggressive peer groups at T1 was associated positively with relationship quality at T2. Results point to the importance of the peer group in shaping adolescent dating experiences.

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