Erika Bowen and Kate Walker: The Psychology of Violence in Adolescent Romantic Relationships

Houndsmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. 2015, 168 pp, ISBN: 978-1-137-32139-8
Book Review

The Psychology of Violence in Adolescent Romantic Relationships, written by Erica Bowen and Kate Walker, provides a thorough overview of adolescent dating violence including what is adolescent dating violence, the prevalence, its long-term impact on adolescents, risk factors of those involved, and effective interventions. The goal of this book is to provide a complete source where all of the topics listed above can be found in one place, as there are little to no other books that provide this focus on adolescents. Each of the eight chapters is dedicated to providing in depth descriptions of each topic. The author does so in a way that is very easily understood and that makes a difficult subject more interesting to the reader. Although there has been little research in the field of adolescent dating violence until very recently, this book focuses on supporting evidence from existing studies in relation to adolescent dating violence and attempts to seek out the likely outcomes in cases where they are not yet known. The authors also work to identify and encourage the need for continued research on adolescent dating violence.

Chapter one starts by discussing why developmental milestones are important for understanding adolescent dating violence. The two main reasons are that it will help enable understanding how conflict, control, and abuse can occur at this time, and that it will aid in the development of intervention and prevention of this behavior. Following this, formal definitions of relevant vocabulary are described including adolescence, romantic relationships, romantic experiences, adolescent dating violence, and domestic abuse. Adolescent dating violence is generally thought of as having three major subtypes. These subtypes include physical abuse, psychological/emotional abuse or verbal abuse, and sexual violence/ abuse. The remainder of the chapter discusses the prevalence of these subtypes. Overall, chapter one provides substantial background information, which will be helpful in understanding the rest of the book, and highlights the need for continued research in this field.

In chapter two, the impacts of adolescent dating violence on future relationships and lives of adolescents is discussed. Adolescent relationships are highly indicative of adult relationships. Adolescent dating violence not only impacts the life of the perpetrator but the victim’s life as well. This idea highlights the need for those struggling in adolescence to seek help for their actions as they can have numerous negative health impacts, both physically and psychologically. Some negative health consequences may include physical harm, posttraumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, anxiety and depression, thoughts of suicide, and increased participation in other health risk behaviors. The chapter ends by stating the importance of understanding these negative consequences as possible reactions to adolescent dating violence so that those involved can get the needed help.

Risk and protective factors are further examined in chapter three by using longitudinal studies as well as multi-wave studies of adolescents ages ten through eighteen. Although longitudinal studies have shown improvement in identifying potential risk factors for adolescent dating violence, multi-wave study outcomes have not been clearly identified. So far, the most clearly recognized risk factors for perpetrators included alcohol use, drug use, depression, and attitudes endorsing adolescent dating violence, while victimization risk factors included alcohol use and depression. In the future, more longitudinal studies will hopefully identify and isolate potential causal risk factors that can then be treated though various interventions.

As chapter three reviewed potential risk and protective factors, chapter four explores the available options for risk assessment in adolescent dating violence. Currently, there are no specific assessment protocols or tools used for adolescent dating violence risk assessment. Unstructured clinical judgment is the most likely form of assessment available, which has been deemed the least reliable and valid due to variability of competence in understanding adolescent dating violence between clinicians. Three tools that may be useful in the assessment of adolescent dating violence include the Early Assessment Risk List, the Structures Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth, and the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment guide. Although these assessments may be helpful, the need for developing an assessment specifically designed to assess adolescent dating violence risk factors is crucial.

Chapter five examines effective interventions in adolescent dating violence. Most often these interventions are provided in classroom settings with the emphasis being on school-based interventions. This is due to adolescents typically being reluctant to seek help from adults, particularly teachers, for addressing adolescent dating violence. When and if adolescents seek help, it is usually from a peer. By promoting interventions through schools, adults can convey information to those who are personally involved in adolescent dating violence and those who may be confided in. Typical interventions developed to reduce violence against a partner are broken down into three levels: primary, secondary, and tertiary. In the case of adolescence, primary and secondary levels are the main focus. Primary prevention seeks to prevent adolescent dating violence before it occurs, while secondary prevention focuses on early detections and offering intervention to those people. Although these interventions are a good start, it is still necessary to devise clear protocols and standards specific to adolescent dating violence.

In chapter six, the book discusses how adolescent dating violence interventions should be designed to make certain that they are theoretically and empirically sound. The Intervention Mapping Model takes an ecological approach to intervention by intervening at individual, community, and group levels. This model involves six steps of evaluation. Those six steps are: needs assessment, matrices, theory-based intervention methods and practical applications, program, adoption and implementation plan, and finally an evaluation plan. Using the Intervention Mapping Model will eliminate the risk of inappropriate or irrelevant interventions in regards to the selected population and provides a solid foundation for developing future methods of intervention in adolescent dating violence.

Chapter seven outlines the importance of evaluating interventions for adolescent dating violence. Evaluating these interventions is necessary to ensure that the interventions are meaningful as well as effective. By evaluating intervention strategies thoroughly and testing theoretical biases, we gain insight into what influences adolescent dating violence, which will aid in better understanding of this field as well as more desirable outcomes for the adolescents involved.

The eighth and final chapter provides a comprehensive summary of the primary issues that need to be addressed in order to lessen the amount of adolescent dating violence in our society. Some of these issues included areas of research, practice, and policy. Developing a secure method of measuring adolescent dating violence is crucial to providing sound methods of intervention to these troubled youth. Without involvement from all areas, including the government, to invest in research programs on this topic, the growth needed for success in this field will be hindered. It is the hope of the authors that, through this research and implementation of its insights, youth can be better protected against adolescent dating violence and its negative effects.

This book has been highly effective in its reasoning for the importance of developing better interventions for adolescent dating violence. As it was shown throughout the chapters, research in this area has been very limited due to the lack of involvement in the field. It is imperative that specific interventions be developed in relation to adolescent dating violence, as this can be a precursor to many adverse conditions affecting mental and physical health for all involved. The contribution of this book is its highlighting the need for more research in this area of adolescence. It has been made clear that, in order to effectively help adolescents involved in dating violence, it is crucial to develop better strategies of intervention and implementation of those interventions. This book provides an exceptional foundation for those interested in furthering the development of prevention as well as intervention of dating violence specifically during the period of adolescence.


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The author reports none.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indiana University BloomingtonBloomingtonUSA

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