Development and Psychopathology

Factors associated with abusive relationships among maltreated and nonmaltreated youth

a1 The University of Western Ontario


This study sought to understand how experiences of maltreatment occurring prior to 12 years of age affect adolescent peer and dating relationships. A school-based sample of 15-year-olds was divided into maltreated (n = 132) and nonmaltreated (n = 227) subgroups based on self-reported maltreatment. These two groups were then compared on two theoretically determined dimensions of adjustment (i.e., interpersonal sensitivity/hostility; personal resources) and self- and teacher-report measures of peer and dating relationships. Findings supported the hypothesis that maltreated youths significantly differed from nonmaltreated youths in terms of adjustment problems as well as conflict with dating partners and close friends. Maltreated youths reported significantly more verbal and physical abuse both toward and by their dating partners, and were seen by teachers as engaging in more acts of aggression and harassment toward others. In regression analyses, the significant association between maltreatment and dating conflict for males was strengthened by including adjustment dimensions in the equation; for females, adjustment variables mediated the association between maltreatment and dating conflict. Results are discussed in relation to a maladaptive interpersonal trajectory for maltreated children, wherein a violent interactional dynamic in adolescent close relationships may be setting the stage for violence in intimate partnerships.

c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: David Wolfe, Dept. of Psychology, The University of Western Ontario, London, Canada, N6A 5C2.