Peers exert more influence on each other during their adolescent years than at any other time. Research carried out shows that peer attitudes and behaviors are critical influences on teen attitudes and behaviors related to dating violence. Friends are not only influential, but they are also more likely to be "on the scene" and are a key element in a couple's social life. Roughly all the adolescent dating violence takes place in the presence of a third party. In teenage relationships, the relationship dynamics often play out in a very public way because a lot of teens spend a large portion of their time in school and in groups.
A boyfriend or girlfriend may act differently when in the presence of peers in a behavior viewed by adolescents as characteristic of a relationship that is unhealthy. For instance, boys in one focus group study said that if a girl hit them in front of their friends, they would need to hit her back so as to "save face" in front of their friends. There is always conflict when it comes to issues of time spend with each other as opposed to time spent with friends. Jealousy is always bound to arise when one of them spends too much time with friends, especially those of the opposite sex. This is because the possibilities of new romances are always a part of the adolescent social fabric. Though these issues may seem "normal" from a developmental perspective, navigating them can cause conflict which, in adolescents, can result in aggressive responses and problematic coping strategies like stalking, psychological or verbal abuse and efforts made in the hopes of gaining control.
Mulford & Giordano (2008) wrote that there are various reasons that can contribute to one becoming an abuser in a teenage relationship. The difference between adolescent and teenage relationships is the absence of elements traditionally associated with greater male power in adult relationships (Miles, 2003, p.138). Adolescent girls are not usually dependent on romantic partners for their financial stability and are even less likely to have children for provide for and protect. For example, a study carried out in Toledo on 7th, 9th and 11th graders found that a majority of the boys and girls interviewed, said that they had a relatively "equal say" in their romantic relationships. In cases of a power imbalance, they were more likely to say that the female was the one who possessed more power in the relationship. The study also found that, overall the boys perceived that they had less power than the girls did (Mulford & Giordano, 2008). Males involved in relationships in which one or both partners reported physical aggression had a perception of less power than males in relationships without physical aggression. At the same time, the girls reportedly did not perceive a difference in power whether there was physical aggression or not in their relationships. Interestingly, adults who perpetrate violence against their own family members often view themselves as powerless in their relationships (Mulford & Giordano, 2008).
Mulford and Giordano (2008), give another contributing factor to adolescent relationship in violence as the lack of experience teens have in negotiating romantic relationships. Due to the lack of experience in communicating and relating to a romantic partner may lead to poor coping strategies which include verbal and physical aggression. A teenager with difficulty in expressing himself or herself may turn to aggressive behaviors as an expression of affection, frustration or jealousy. In a study carried out in which boys and girls participated in focus group discussions found that physical aggression sometimes stemmed from their inability to communicate their feelings as well as the lack of constructive ways of dealing with frustration (Mulford & Giordano, 2008). Adolescents become more realistic and less idealistic about romantic relationships as they develop into young adults. They therefore have a greater capacity for closeness and intimacy. When a person holds idealistic beliefs about romantic relationships, they can become disillusioned and this can lead to ineffective coping mechanisms which bring about conflict (Mulford & Giordano, 2008). This may explain why physical aggression can become common when adolescents do not fully develop their capacity for intimacy which includes their ability to communicate.
Rehabilitation for this type of offender
Peacock & Rothman (2001), in their research on current strategies and new directions when dealing with young men who batter, wrote that juvenile batterer rehabilitation programs have emerged in the United States over the last decade. Most have developed in relative isolation from one another despite of the similar philosophies they may share. They have been developed by courts, survivor advocacy agencies, batterer intervention programs and community based agencies that serve the youth (p.3). This has in turn resulted in the programs differing with regard to structure as well as methodology. These programs are an alternative to incarceration and offer possible methods to re-educate young men about their relationships as well with their use of violence. Many of the juvenile batterer intervention programs use a psycho-educational group format and mostly meet for 1 to 2 hours per week. These group meetings have activities which involve discussions of healthy and unhealthy relationships, sex-role stereotyping, coping with anger and rejection, and the effect of alcohol or drug use on one's behavior among other topics. The atmosphere of these groups is neither intimidating nor social; trained staff works so as to maintain a safe, encouraging yet serious tone. The group cycles last from 12-52 weeks (Peacock & Rothman, 2001, p.3). Parents are also meant to receive orientation information regarding the program and, in some communities, are involved in the intervention on an on-going basis. Intervention for participants who re-offend may be expelled from the group or asked to re-start the program, depending on the program. The participants, who get expelled, in some communities, face more severe penalties from a probation department or court (Peacock & Rothman, 2001, p.3).
These programs for adolescents who are perpetrators of dating violence face a number of challenges and dilemmas just like other new interventions. Challenges faced include public recognition of teen domestic violence as a phenomenon which is distinct from generalized violence and partnering with a juvenile justice system perceived by many to suffer from pervasive racial and class biases. There are also new directions being taken in juvenile batterer intervention. This is because the field of teen dating and family violence intervention becomes more sophisticated and stakeholders are exploring new strategies, identifying needs and attempting to build on lessons learned in fields related to the subject. One of the new developments involves partnering with school administrators and educators. This is because there is as much a need for change in social norms supporting violence as there is for intervention for the perpetrators. Educators have an enormous potential to affect the social environments in their classrooms as well as their school communities (Peacock & Rothman, 2001, p.3). The school administrators have the power to design, promote and implement policies and curricular approaches which can significantly affect the students' attitudes and behavior. This makes it important for school personnel to receive training on the topic of gender-based violence and also get supported when they link existing literature or social studies themes to social norms regarding violence and gender (Peacock & Rothman, 2001, p.3).
The creation of policy or awarding of funds to intervention programs in the absence of evaluation research potentially places victims at continued risk for abuse and may contribute to waste of resources. It is therefore important for there to be long-term follow-up evaluation studies of juvenile intervention programs are conducted and that the results are widely disseminated (Peacock & Rothman, 2001, p.6). Those responsible for developing programs should base the design of curricula and intervention components on data collected from program participants; optimal interventions will be created if the service population is more fully understood (Peacock & Rothman, 2001, p.6). In 1999, the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence evaluated several violence prevention and intervention initiatives. Those initiatives that utilize ecological approaches were shown to have high success rates with violent juvenile offenders. The ecological approach is where some adult and youth batterer intervention programs attempted to integrate ecological principles into batterer intervention programs.
These approaches have in the common the recognition that the participant is an important access point to the family, community members, including peers and institutions like the faith community, schools and other community based agencies, the juvenile and family courts and to the youth employment agencies. The access they provide makes it possible to enlist family, community members and institutions in holding perpetrators accountable while ensuring victim safety. Some cases, however, discourage the involvement of family members as it is not always appropriate. This involvement of abusive parents may jeopardize the safety of young men who batter (Peacock & Rothman, 2001, p.6). The ecological approaches emphasize individual and community strengths while building on emerging understandings of individual resiliency and community assets. An example given by Peacock…