Relationship Context and Intimate Partner Violence From Adolescence to Young Adulthood

J Adolesc Health. 2015 Dec;57(6):631-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.08.014.


Purpose: To assess changes in self-reported intimate partner violence (IPV) experience from adolescence through young adulthood. To examine whether individual change in indicators of relationship context--qualities and dynamics of the relationship, changes in partners, and relationship type (dating, cohabiting, and married)--were associated with change in self-reports of IPV.

Methods: Drawing on longitudinal population-based data, the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study, we used fixed-effects models to estimate within-person change in associations between features of respondents' intimate relationships and the proportion of relationships with IPV from adolescence through young adulthood. Analyses focused on 1,146 young men and women ages 13-29 years (51% female). Items measuring IPV were from the Conflict Tactics Scale.

Results: More than half of respondents (53%) experienced discontinuity in IPV across relationships. Among those reporting violence, the vast majority (87%) did not experience violence in all of their relationships. Age-related patterns were similar for men and women with IPV peaking in young adulthood. Infidelity, frequency of disagreements, and partner continuity were associated with a higher proportion of relationships with IPV. Improvements in the nature and character of romantic relationships were associated with a lower accumulation of IPV experiences.

Conclusions: IPV, although prevalent, does not represent a consistent experience. As young adults develop higher quality relationships they move toward desistance from IPV. Yet, variability in these experiences is observed, supporting previous calls for programs that promote the development of healthy relationships among adolescents and young adults.

Keywords: Adolescent development; Intimate partner violence; Romantic relationships; Young adult development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Intimate Partner Violence*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research
  • Young Adult