Date of this Version
Published in Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2017
Scholars have identified dating violence as a public health issue among adolescents. Yet, minimal research has detailed adolescents’ perceptions of dating violence, specifically gender differences in perceptions. Research suggests that in order for dating violence prevention and intervention to be effective, services need to be delivered in a manner that is understood by adolescents. Therefore, this study used a qualitative phenomenology study to investigate adolescents’ perceptions of dating violence, including gender differences in adolescents’ perceptions. Thirty adolescents between the ages of 14 and 19 from a Midwest public high school participated in focus groups. Focus group participants were asked semistructured interview questions regarding the definition of dating violence, risk and protective factors for dating violence, support for victims and perpetrators, and prevention efforts. Data were analyzed using qualitative content analysis methods, and common themes were identified. Adolescents’ language revealed gender differences in perceptions toward dating violence. Males perceive dating violence through action, perpetration, and physical consequences. Females discuss dating violence by relating to the victim and the victim’s emotions. Although gender differences existed in participants’ perceptions, both males and females explained that dating violence is more often perpetrated by females, despite the view from society that males are more likely to perpetrate dating violence. Findings suggest that schools, practitioners, and policy makers are not meeting the needs of adolescents in regard to dating violence prevention and intervention. Prevention and intervention efforts could be improved by delivering education and services using language that adolescents find relevant. Findings also suggest that adolescents may benefit from prevention and intervention with gender specific components.
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