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Health Services


Peter Anderson


Domestic violence afflicts people regardless of ethnicity, socio-economically status, age, or gender. Too often, girls enter and remain in abusive relationships, despite the trauma and risks of doing so. Using Roy's theory of adaptation, this study explored the effect of witnessing inter-parental violence on girls' experiences of physical violence or sexual abuse in their dating relationships. Original data collection occurred at a Midwestern U.S. university via e-mail using questions adapted from the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Survey Surveillance System. The study used 526 responses from female participants who self-disclosed if they had or had not witnessed inter-parental violence for categorical placement. Participants mirrored the population of the university with regard to age, race, and GPA. Using an ANOVA, the groups were compared on the independent variable of witnessing inter-parental violence and the dependent variable of experiencing physical or sexual dating violence. Results showed witnessing inter-parental violence did not predict whether or not a girl would experience physical or sexual violence in a dating relationship. Findings indicated adaptation on the part of the girls after witnessing inter-parental violence and beginning their own dating relationships. Additional research is needed to gain knowledge of this adaptation process and to explore what happened between the time of witnessing inter-parental violence and entering dating relationships that helped prevent them from experiencing dating violence. Knowledge of these participants' adaptation processes may provide insight for counselors and therapists on how to support children who witness inter-parental violence. This insight may help girls develop adaptation mechanisms to prevent experiencing violence in dating relationships.