Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Timmons Fritz, Patti

Keywords

Dating Violence; Mixed methods; Partner Violence; Youth

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

Most research on dating aggression in youth uses act-based questionnaires created by adult researchers, which measure the frequency of specific behaviours but not the context in which the behaviours occurred. This study used mixed methods to investigate whether attitudes and definitions of dating aggression assessed via these act-based questionnaires fully capture the experiences and opinions of emerging adults. University students (ages 17-20 years) completed quantitative self-report questionnaires (n = 172; 70% women) or took part in focus group discussions (n = 21; 57% female) regarding attitudes toward and involvement in dating aggression. I explicitly compared the quantitative and qualitative data to demonstrate how views of dating aggression in youth differed according to method of measurement. Participants also identified factors that influenced the development of their beliefs about dating aggression in order to provide insight into the context in which dating aggression is understood by young people. Quantitative questionnaires adequately captured the types of aggressive behaviours experienced by participants, but did not capture the nuanced beliefs and judgments that participants made about dating aggression. Quantitative questionnaires alone did not provide information about differences between beliefs and behaviours, differences in judging aggression in youths’ own versus others’ relationships, and the important role of patriarchy and gender roles in how participants understood dating aggression. The context in which participants developed these views about dating aggression was complex and dynamic, and included multiple intersecting factors such as family, friends, culture, media, and education. Findings point to a need for more context-sensitive measurement of dating aggression and acknowledgement that attitudes towards dating aggression may not be as straightforward as suggested by quantitative data from the questionnaires typically used in the field.

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