Perceptions of dating violence and cyber dating abuse among college and university females aged 18-25
Dating violence (DV) and cyber dating abuse (CDA) is an eminent public health issue with significant implications on young adult females. The purpose of this mixed-method study was to explore the prior exposure to behaviors associated with DV and CDA of females aged 18-25 years attending college in Texas or California, and to ascertain their knowledge and attitudes of DV- and CDA-related behaviors, campus support services, and prevention programs. Limited studies have researched the perceptions and attitudes of dating violence victimization among female college students exclusively. This study wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the perceptions of what college females aged 18-25 years perceive as DV and CDA behaviors. Participants completed an on-line demographic survey, the Cyber Dating Abuse Questionnaire (CDAQ) and the Dating Violence Questionnaire-Revised (DVQ-R). Additionally, participants participated in a face-to-face semi-structured interview with the researcher. Twenty participants who resided in Texas and California participated in the study. The data analysis utilized descriptive statistics to interpret the demographic items (sex, age, race and ethnicity, location of college, and status of abuse in a dating relationship), as well as frequencies, means of the sum scores, and standard deviations of the DVQ-R and CDAQ scales and subscales. Spearman correlations were computed between the scales with age and grade level. Mann-Whitney U tests were conducted to assess differences by ethnicity (Latina vs. Other) and by whether or not the participants had ever been in an abusive relationship. Primary and secondary nodes were utilized for the qualitative analysis. Responses to the DVQ-R and CDAQ were scored and compared to the feedback from the semi-structured interview responses on DV victimization. The DVQ-R was analyzed on the frequency and disturbance/distress of DV victimization behaviors that participants experienced in a dating relationship. The study revealed college females aged 18-24 years did not currently experience the four cyber dating abuse types, but they had experienced it in the past. Moreover, the college female students aged 18-24 years reported experiencing a mild or moderate level of disturbance for each of the five behaviors of detachment, humiliation, sexual, coercion, and physical dating violence in their dating relationship. The qualitative results of the study revealed that the participants were more definitive in their descriptions of physical and sexual DV in their interview responses compared to their answers on the survey. Finally, participants reported DV and CDA prevention programs should include the recognition of abuse, CDA awareness, enhancing self-esteem, effective communication, and how to leave an abusive relationship and/or seek help. Therefore, the results from the current study could help in the development of specific health education DV and CDA prevention strategies for college females.