"It’s a bad thing...but it’s a good thing too": A Mixed Methods Examination of Technology Use and Cyber Dating Abuse Perpetration in Adolescent Romantic Relationships Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Agnew, Christine
    • Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Health Behavior
  • Background: Technology use among adolescents is ubiquitous as are romantic relationships. While there is increasing concern that adolescents use technology to abuse their romantic partners, there has been limited research examining this phenomenon. The aims of this mixed-methods dissertation were to: 1) qualitatively examine adolescent perceptions of technology use in romantic relationships and; 2) quantitatively examine the risk and protective factors associated with technology-based communications used to abuse romantic partners. Methods: I conducted 10 focus groups with 55 adolescents between 16 and 18 years of age in Metro Atlanta, GA and analyzed data using thematic coding procedures. Quantitative data for the second aim came from a national dating abuse prevention RCT entitled Moms and Teens for Safe Dates. I used a generalized estimating equation (GEE) approach to examine if cyber dating abuse (CDA) perpetration- psychological and sexual abuse that occurs via technology- shared risk and protective factors previously identified as being associated with dating abuse perpetration conceptualized as occurring in-person (IPDA). Results: In the focus groups adolescents reported that they perceive constant pressure to stay connected to peers and romantic partners through technology-based communication. Further, they described how technology-based communications often make them feel emotionally detached when communicating, which exerts both positive and negative influences on their romantic relationships. These influences may also contribute to CDA perpetration. For example, participants explained that they felt it was easier to be aggressive and verbally abusive through technology-based communications compared to in-person communications. In Aim 2, I found that CDA and IPDA perpetration shared four risk factors: acceptance of dating abuse, mother-adolescent discord, depressed affect, and anger dysregulation. There were no unique risk and protective factors for either mode of abuse suggesting that these two modes of abuse may share a similar etiology. Conclusion: This dissertation contributes important formative knowledge about adolescent technology use and CDA. Findings highlight the different roles technology plays in adolescent romantic relationships and the risk factors associated with both CDA and IPDA perpetration, which can inform interventions. Future research is needed to examine CDA in the context of the rapid and dynamic evolution of technology-based communications.
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  • In Copyright
  • Hightow-Weidman, Lisa
  • Foshee, Vangie
  • Barrington, Clare
  • McNaughton Reyes, Heathe Luz
  • Moracco, Kathryn E.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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