The Effects of a Health Care–Based Brief Intervention on Dating Abuse Perpetration: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial

  • Emily F. RothmanEmail author
  • Gregory L. Stuart
  • Timothy Heeren
  • Jennifer Paruk
  • Megan Bair-Merritt


Dating abuse (DA) is prevalent and consequential, yet there are no evidence-based interventions for the health care setting that prevent perpetration. The current study’s purpose was to test a one-session brief motivational interview-style intervention to decrease DA perpetration. We conducted a two-arm RCT of the Real Talk intervention with follow-up at 3 and 6 months. Participants were 172 youth ages 15–19 years old, recruited from the pediatric emergency department or outpatient care services of an urban hospital in the USA in 2014–2017. The primary outcome was change in self-reported DA perpetration, including subtypes of DA such as physical, sexual, psychological, and cyber DA. Youth in both intervention and control arms reduced DA perpetration over time. GEE models indicated no overall intervention effects for any, physical, sexual, or psychological DA. There were overall effects for cyber DA (RR 0.49, 95% CI 0.27, 0.87). There were also effects at 3 months for psychological DA (RR 0.24, 95% CI 0.06, 0.93) and cyber DA (RR 0.39, 95% CI 0.19, 0.79). Analyses stratified by gender also found overall effects for males for any DA (RR 0.20, 95% CI 0.07, 0.55), physical DA (RR 0.30, 95% CI 0.10, 0.89), and cyber DA (RR 0.04, 95% CI 0.01, 0.27). For males, intervention effects on any DA persisted to 6 months (RR 0.13, 95% CI 0.02, 1.01). This health care-based one-session DA intervention is a potentially promising approach to reduce DA perpetration among adolescents.

Clinical trial registration: This study is registered at NCT02080923.


Dating abuse Partner violence Brief intervention Motivational interview 



We would like to acknowledge the youth who participated in the intervention.


This project was supported by the National Institute of Justice (grant number 2013-VA-CX-0001).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This research involved human participants, was reviewed by an Institutional Review Board, and informed consent/assent was obtained for all participants. Research was performed in accordance with the ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of Interest

We declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

11121_2019_1054_MOESM1_ESM.docx (105 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 104 kb)


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Community Health SciencesBoston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.University of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  3. 3.Boston University School of MedicineBostonUSA

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