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By on March 24, 2010

Developing a theory of adolescent dating violence 

Donna Martsolf
Donna Martsolf


(19 min) This is an interview with Dr. Donna S. Martsolf and Dr. Claire Burke Draucker of the College of Nursing at Kent State University, and Terri Heckman, Director of the Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit and Medino Counties. They talk about their use of an innovative, qualitative research design to develop a theoretical framework that describes, explains, and predicts how dating violence unfolds during adolescence. They share their insights into teen dating violence that have come from their work, and some of the implications of this research for prevention. 


The following abstract describing this research can be found here on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Control and Prevention’s Grantee Abstracts page. 

Project Title: Adolescent Dating Violence: Development of a Theoretical Framework


Dating violence among adolescents is a prevalent public health problem with serious proximal and distal effects, including increased risk for adult intimate partner violence. An in-depth explanatory theory that is focused on the development of dating violence during adolescence and informed by the perspective of those who have experienced adolescent dating violence has not been developed. The lack of theory has hindered efforts to develop dating violence prevention programs that show evidence of long-term efficacy. The purpose of the proposed research is to use an innovative, qualitative research design to develop a theoretical framework that describes, explains, and predicts how dating violence unfolds during adolescence. The specific aims are to:

  • a) Identify common processes by which adolescents respond to their experiences of dating violence from a narrative/life course perspective,
  • b) Develop a typology of common trajectories of violent events that occur over the course of adolescent dating relationships from a situational/events perspective,
  • c) Examine the influence of social circumstances on adolescents’ experiences of dating violence, and
  • d) Use grounded theory methods to analyze and integrate information about the processes, trajectories, and influential social circumstances in order to create the theoretical framework.

The project will be conducted by a collaborative team of university and community-based researchers. Women and men between the ages of 18 and 21 living in one of 12 Summit, Medina, or Portage counties in Ohio who have experienced dating violence as adolescents will be recruited by a community-based recruitment strategy developed by the researchers. In-depth interviews will be used to obtain narratives of the participants’ responses to dating violence and detailed descriptions of the violent events they experienced. These data will be supplemented by narratives of professionals who work with adolescents at risk for dating violence and information regarding community responses to dating violence. Grounded theory methods will be used to analyze the data and develop the theoretical framework. The university / community collaborative research team, with the assistance of a consultant who is a world renowned expert on interpersonal violence, will determine the implications of the theory for prevention efforts.

One response to “Developing a theory of adolescent dating violence”

  1. Thought I’d pass along this PSA about abusive relationships made by Chicago high school students and a playlist with some other interesting videos about teen violence in relationships to anyone interested:

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