The Influence of Culture on Healthy Relationship Formation and Teen Dating Violence: A Qualitative Analysis of South Asian Female Youth Residing in the United States

J Interpers Violence. 2021 Apr;36(7-8):NP4336-NP4362. doi: 10.1177/0886260518787815. Epub 2018 Jul 10.


Teen dating violence (TDV) has well-documented detrimental health effects. Scant research has examined the perspectives of ethnically diverse youth about the impact of culture on TDV. We sought to explore the intersection between culture and TDV specifically for South Asian youth residing in the United States. We conducted semi-structured interviews with South Asian youth aged 16 to 21 years. Interviews included three aims: (a) exploring participants' perspectives on TDV and healthy relationships within the South Asian community, (b) examining how different components of their cultural identity affect their romantic relationships, and (c) understanding ideas for TDV prevention programs for South Asian youth. Interview transcripts were coded using thematic analysis. Twenty-five adolescent females participated; the majority (76%) trace their heritage to India, were born abroad (62%), and are in college (80%). The majority believed that dating was stigmatized within the South Asian community, forcing youth to hide relationships from their parents. Participants described aspects of culture that may negatively impact relationships (e.g., patriarchal attitudes and fear of stigma), as well as those that may protect teens (e.g., close-knit community). Conflicts about dating due to generational differences were also discussed. Participants suggested programs for South Asian youth focused on engaging parents in conversations about TDV and promoting gender equity. About half thought TDV prevention programs should be culturally tailored for South Asian youth, while others believed multicultural programs would be more effective. Although South Asian culture may confer some protection for youth experiencing TDV, stigma against dating and generational differences may create unique challenges. Future work should examine how to mediate parent-adolescent cultural conflicts around dating.

Keywords: South Asia; adolescent relationship abuse; immigrant; qualitative; teen dating violence; youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • India
  • Intimate Partner Violence*
  • United States