Romantic Relational Styles, Mental Health and Cyber Abuse

Social mediaNearly 26% of adolescents report experiencing cyber dating violence (DV; Zweig, Lachman, Yahner, & Dank, 2014). Previous studies indicate that both romantic relational styles and impaired mental health (MH) functioning are potential risk factors for DV (Furman & Wehner, 1994; Zweig et al., 2014). Individuals with avoidant and anxious relational styles are more likely to be victims and perpetrators of DV.

Yet, there is limited research examining relational styles, MH functioning, and cyber DV perpetration/victimization among female adolescents with a history of DV. We used generalized linear models to examine associations between baseline MH impairment and relational styles to cyber DV perpetration and victimization three months later, controlling for cyber DV at baseline. MH functioning was measured using the global impairment scale of the Columbia Impairment Scale (Bird, Shaffer, Fisher, & Gould, 1993).

We assessed three dimensions (secure, avoidant, and anxious) and four types of relational styles (attachment, caregiving, affiliation, and physical intimacy) using the Behavioral Systems Questionnaire (Furman & Wehner, 1994). Results showed that secure attachment styles (χ2 = 4.22, p < 0.05) and secure physical intimacy styles (χ2 = 4.68, p < 0.05) predicted cyber DV victimization.

Avoidant (χ2 = 4.52, p < 0.05) and secure attachment styles (χ2 = 3.26, p = 0.07) predicted cyber DV perpetration at the trend level. Mental health impairment was associated with cyber DV perpetration and victimization in all models (p < 0.05).

These findings indicate teens with greater MH impairment, more secure styles, and more avoidant styles may be at greater risk for involvement in cyber DV.

Authors: Rachel Taylor & Christie J. Rizzo

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