Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a significant public health concern in the United States, having developmental roots in youth relationship behaviors. Within Wayne County, Michigan, rates of IPV among youth are estimated at 14%, although this estimate is believed to be conservative (Youth Behavior Surveillance, 1997). Given the gravity of the problem, it is important to understand the modifiable protective factors that may be efficacious in prevention perpetration, including social engagement, normative cognitions, parental supervision, and self-control, and how these relate to risk factors including community violence and concentrated disadvantage, childhood trauma, and early exposure to pornography. Adolescents geographically located in an urban environment are at heightened risk for exposure to various forms of violence or other traumatic events, yet there is little research that adequatel examines the relation between community context and IPV.
The aim of the research is to contribute to the knowledge base and prevention field by underscoring the longitudinal relationships between IPV, risk and protective factors at the community, school, and family levels, and context and cognitions about violence. Specific attention will also be provided to the role of technology in the various forms of IPV, as well as a gender sensitive lens regarding the similarities and difference in the mechanism, meaning and context of IPV. The central hypothesis of the study is that modifiable factors within the community, school, and family can impact and moderate the risk factors that exist within the lives of youth, buffering these impacts to decrease IPV perpetration. We expect that social engagement and connections and approaches to influence normative cognitions will moderate the impacts of traumatic life events and exposures. Using a large-scale longitudinal mixed-methods design, the proposed study seeks to disentangle the relationship between IPV perpetration, community context, school environment, and peer and family influences. Six school districts in Wayne County will participate in the proposed study over a three-year period, including three waves of survey research, focus groups, and policy analysis. Within each school district, one high school and at least one middle school, stratified by level of violence and concentrated disadvantage, will participate in the research. Schools will receive a monetary incentive for participation. Participating schools will also be provided with extensive training and capacity building regarding prevention programming and policy development. Students from the middle and high schools who provide parental consent and youth assent will be surveyed in each of the three years, starting with the sixth and tenth grade years respectively. A desired sample size of 1240 is desired to allow for unavoidable attrition and in order to have adequate power for complex analysis of the interrelationships of factors. From this sample, youth and their parents will be recruited to participate in separate focus groups to provide greater depth of understanding the results of the survey research and written policy analysis. Following the survey administration, students'residences will be geocoded at the census block group level and a large dataset will be constructed that will merge survey data with publically available crime data, census information, and school characteristics. At each stage of the research process, extensive measures will be taken to preserve the confidentiality of participants. At the end of each wave of data collection, data sharing and assistance with data interpretation will take place in a collaborative effort between the research team and schools in order to build infrastructure for primary prevention. In order to test the proposed hypotheses, analysis will be conducted using hierarchical linear modeling and structural equation modeling. A nested model structure that appropriately analyzes the hierarchical nature of the study variables will be used to estimate the effects of individual, relational, school, and community-level risk and protective factors for IPV perpetration.
The proposed research is to generate knowledge surrounding the factors at the individual, relational, school, community, and societal levels that may prevent intimate partner violence (IPV) and explore the roles of gender, technology, and changing norms of relationships in the etiology of abusive behavior. The proposed mixed methods study is theoretically driven and incorporates a scientific research design that addresses the prevalence and incidence of IPV in representative samples of adolescent males and females, as well as diverse ages, races/ethnicities, and social classes. The exploration of normative cognitions about violence, self control, and exposure to community violence and other forms of trauma, all in the context of technological use and misuse will provide us a foundation that informs continued research and practice in the area of developing evidence-based prevention protocols for intimate partner violence.