Do peers influence young men to perpetrate intimate partner violence?

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I find the social ecological model to be a helpful framework to highlight that prevention work needs to look beyond the individual.  So I am pleased to see research that examines risk and protective factors that go beyond individual attitudes, beliefs and experiences.

In the recent article appearing in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, authors Casey and Beadnell examine the links between male adolescent peer networks and the risk to perpetrate intimate partner violence.  Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (initially collected in 1995 on teen peer networks and in 2001 for IPV perpetration), this study explores different peer networks for male teens.

While the results are uneven (some relationship were shown while other were not), Casey and Beadnell suggest

…some peer-level factors did emerge as relevant to IPV perpetration, which suggests that selected prevention programming targeting specific risk factors at the peer level may be warranted. Speci?cally, depressed, socially isolated youth in small, dense male networks appeared to be at greater risk of future perpetration than youth with much more numerous, gender-balanced, pro- social ties. It may be that structural prevention programs that aim to reduce some teens’ social isolation, build social competencies and generate positive opportunities for exposure to variety of peers may expand the range of behaviors, attitudes and relationship expectations to which youth are exposed.

I support research that challenges prevention programs to make changes to social networks as a means to change.  What do you think?

The full citation and abstract follow:

The structure of male adolescent peer networks and risk for intimate partner violence perpetration: findings from a national sample.

Casey EA, Beadnell B. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 2010; 39(6): 620-33.

Click here for a link to the article on the journal’s web site.

(Copyright © 2010, Springer Science+Business Media)

Although peer networks have been implicated as influential in a range of adolescent behaviors, little is known about relationships between peer network structures and risk for intimate partner violence (IPV) among youth. This study is a descriptive analysis of how peer network “types” may be related to subsequent risk for IPV perpetration among adolescents using data from 3,030 male respondents to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Sampled youth were a mean of 16 years of age when surveyed about the nature of their peer networks, and 21.9 when asked to report about IPV perpetration in their adolescent and early adulthood relationships. A latent class analysis of the size, structure, gender composition and delinquency level of friendship groups identified four unique profiles of peer network structures. Men in the group type characterized by small, dense, mostly male peer networks with higher levels of delinquent behavior reported higher rates of subsequent IPV perpetration than men whose adolescent network type was characterized by large, loosely connected groups of less delinquent male and female friends. Other factors known to be antecedents and correlates of IPV perpetration varied in their distribution across the peer group types, suggesting that different configurations of risk for relationship aggression can be found across peer networks. Implications for prevention programming and future research are addressed.

David Lee

David S. Lee, MPH, is the Director of Prevention Services at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) where he provides training and technical assistance on prevention. David manages the national project Prevention Connection, an online community of violence against women prevention practitioners, funders, researchers and activists. For over 29 years David has worked in efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

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