Teen Dating Cyberviolence: A Systematic Narrative Review of Gender-Based Analyses of Risk and Protective Factors

About the project

Interventions regarding teen dating violence mainly focus on preventing offline violence. However, the increasing youth use of information and communications technology creates a new context in which offline power dynamics and relations carry over to online environments. There is limited understanding of the risk factors, including gender based factors, that impact the likelihood that youth will be the victims or perpetrators of dating cyberviolence. This helps explain the dearth of existing programs with specific cyberviolence prevention interventions.

The objective of this study was to identify and describe gender-based risk and protective factors associated with teen dating cyberviolence. To accomplish this, the research team conducted a systematic narrative review of the available scientific literature and selected 23 articles based on predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria. In an effort to better inform policies and guide the development of programs to prevent dating cyberviolence, this synthesis presents an overview of the risk and protective factors for teen dating cyberviolence by situating them within an ecological model designed to summarize factors potentially influencing individual behaviour.

Key findings

Prevalence

  • According to the articles we selected that analyze the prevalence of dating cyberviolence by gender, girls are not only more likely to be the victims of cyberviolence in their romantic relationships (for all forms of cyberviolence), but are also more likely to be the perpetrators of non-sexual cyberviolence, especially when it comes to cyberstalking and cyberbullying.

Individual factors

  • The vast majority of risk and protective factors identified in the articles are categorized as individual according to the ecological model.
  • Some of the most commonly documented factors associated with teen dating cyberviolence include offline intimate partner violence, a belief in sexist and gendered attitudes and a belief in myths about romantic love.
  • Those factors do not show any meaningful gender-based differences regarding who is the victim or perpetrator of dating cyberviolence. The same risk factors are also associated with offline teen dating violence.

Relationship and community factors and protective factors

  • Few protective factors or factors associated with a higher risk of dating cyberviolence were documented above the individual level.
  • Although these models did not consider the influence of gender, three of the articles found three protective factors against dating cyberviolence: peer social support, stronger feelings of safety in the community and parental support.
  • Three of the studies focusing on relationship factors in the ecological model found factors that were associated with a higher risk of dating cyberviolence. These factors, one from each study, were a perception that peers’ partners behave violently toward them, parental alienation, and a belief that the couple do not have a good relationship.

Policy implications

  • According to the available scientific literature, there is no data to support the development of preventive programs—or dedicated components— for teen dating cyberviolence that focus specifically on boys or girls. Additionally, the factors that we found to be associated with dating cyberviolence do not generally differ by gender.
  • Given that the factors associated with the risk that someone will be the perpetrator or victim of cyberviolence in a romantic relationship largely overlapped with factors associated with offline violence, it would be beneficial to develop a single program that would attempt to prevent both types of violence simultaneously. Such programs could also benefit from activities that take into consideration the specific nature of cyberviolence.
  • We need to do a better job at identifying community risk and protective factors for teen dating cyberviolence, as well as analyzing the phenomenon’s specific individual factors. We therefore suggest that future research focus more on abuse or at-risk behaviour that takes place online, on social media or using new information technologies and that it review the different policies and regulations on digital platforms—the digital environment—to see if they increase or decrease this type of violence.
  • Although further study is required to confirm the extent to which parental support can provide protection against teen dating cyberviolence, it would be a good idea to involve parents in prevention programs.

Further information

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