The Family Context and Adolescent Dating Violence: A Latent Class Analysis of Family Relationships and Parenting Behaviors

Rachel C. Garthe, Terri N. Sullivan, Deborah Gorman-Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adolescent dating violence is a persistent public health concern, impacting many youths during their initial and formative relationships during middle school. Despite theoretical and empirical studies highlighting the essential role of family relationship dynamics and parenting practices in relation to youth violence, substantially less research has focused on associations between these factors and rates of adolescent dating violence. The current study examined aspects of the family context in relation to dating violence outcomes among a racially and ethnically diverse sample of middle school students from economically disadvantaged communities, a group of adolescents at a high risk for exposure to risk factors for dating violence. Participants included 495 adolescents (66% male; 63% African American). Data were collected at the beginning of sixth grade and three subsequent spring waves through eighth grade. The current study identified patterns of family factors using a latent class analysis and examined these classes in relation to dating violence and dating violence norms. Three classes emerged: a positive family context with mixed messages about parental support for fighting and nonviolence (42%), an average family context with consistent parental support for nonviolent responses to conflict (24%), and a poor family context with parental support for fighting (34%). The classes with average and positive family contexts showed the lowest levels of dating violence and dating violence norms. These findings support the development and integration of family context factors into adolescent dating violence prevention programs, especially within high-burden contexts where families may be more likely to endorse mixed messages about how to handle conflict and youth may be at a higher risk for dating violence outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1418-1432
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of youth and adolescence
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019


  • Dating violence
  • Family
  • Latent class analysis
  • Parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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