Prevalence of Teen Dating Violence and Its Association to Substance Use in Nicaraguan Early Adolescents

Vi D. Le, Jonathan Pettigrew, Jeff R. Temple

Background: Teen dating violence is a significant public health issue with potentially severe mental, physical, and psychosocial health consequences. Much of the literature on dating violence is based on US, Canadian, and European samples. Much less is known about the prevalence and correlates of this form of violence in developing countries. To address this gap in knowledge, we utilized a Nicaraguan sample of teens to 1) examine the prevalence of dating violence in a sample of seventh and eighth grade students; and 2) determine the link between substance use (alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana) dating violence in this understudied population.

Methods: We used a school-based sample of 597 youth from twenty-three private schools and youth service organizations from three cities in Nicaragua. Participants reported their experiences with psychological, physical, and sexual dating violence (36 items from the CADRI), electronic dating violence (16 items), as well as the past 30 day use of alcohol (1 item), cigarette (1 item), and marijuana (1 item).

Results: Of the 155 participants who were recently (past 12 months) or currently in a dating relationship, 19.3% reported being victimized by psychological abuse, 14.6% by physical abuse, 23.4 by sexual abuse, and 36.1% by electronic dating violence. With respect to perpetration, 23.4% of adolescents reported perpetrating psychological abuse, 10.5% physical abuse, 8.4% sexual abuse, and 34.2% electronic dating violence. Rates did not differ by gender. Chi-square analyses found that perpetration of any dating violence was associated with alcohol use, cigarette use, and marijuana use with perpetrators more likely to engage in substance use than non-perpetrators. Conversely, victimization was not related to use of any substances.

Conclusion: This study adds to the knowledge base about dating violence and substance use among Nicaraguan youth. The prevalence of teen dating violence in Nicaragua reflects that of the US teen dating violence rate where 10% to 38% of youth are victims of dating violence and 15% to 40% are perpetrators of dating violence. Findings will guide prevention and intervention efforts in this developing country.

This abstract was submitted to the 2017 Society for Prevention Research Annual Meeting.

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