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Continuity of adolescent and early adult partner violence victimisation: association with witnessing violent crime in adolescence

Abstract

Background: Although exposure to peer and family violence is a documented risk factor for adolescent dating violence, less is known about the relationship between violent crime exposure and dating violence victimisation.

Methods: Participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (n = 4794) aged 13–17 years self-reported witnessing violent crime (someone being shot or stabbed) in the 12 months prior to Wave I interview (1994–95), physical partner violence victimisation within the 18 months prior to Wave II interview (1995–96), and physical and sexual partner violence victimisation within the 18 months prior to Wave III interview (2001).

Results: Twelve per cent of respondents reported dating violence victimisation at Wave II. Witnessing violent crime was positively associated with victimisation in crude (OR = 2.11, 95% CI 1.56 to 2.86) and adjusted (AOR = 1.53, 95% CI 1.09 to 2.15) analyses. Of the adolescent partner violence victims (n = 549), 32% reported continued victimisation into early adulthood; after adjusting for gender, age, urbanicity and childhood maltreatment history, witnessing violent crime in adolescence was negatively associated with having non-violent relationships in early adulthood (AOR = 0.40, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.84). In cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses, associations between violent crime exposure and victimisation did not vary by age, gender or race/ethnicity.

Conclusion: Adolescents exposed to violent crime experience an increased risk of partner violence victimisation in adolescence and continuing victimisation into adulthood. Targeting dating violence prevention and intervention programmes to geographic areas with high levels of violent crime may be an efficient strategy to reach higher risk adolescents. Reducing community violent crime may also have spillover effects on partner violence.

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