Young Mothers and Dating Violence: An Examination of Depressive Symptomatology and Interpersonal Competency

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Purpose: Young mothers are an understudied group at high risk for dating violence (DV) victimization and perpetration. Prior research has investigated depressive symptomatology as a predictor of DV in female adolescents and young women; however, minimal research focuses on young mothers, and the specific mechanisms influencing the relationship between depressive symptomatology and DV for young mothers remain elusive. Interpersonal competency is one potential mechanism given its role in creating healthy foundations for romantic relationships. The present study examined interpersonal competency as a potential mechanism linking depressive symptomatology and DV victimization and perpetration in a sample of young mothers. We hypothesized young mothers with elevated depressive symptomatology would report higher rates of DV victimization and perpetration, and that these associations would be mediated by interpersonal competence. Methods: Young mothers ages 18–21 in the United States (n = 238) completed questionnaires pertaining to our primary variables of interest via an online, cross-sectional survey. We conducted a mediation analysis to examine the average causal mediation and average direct effects. Results: DV experiences were related to depressive symptomatology and interpersonal competency. Interpersonal competency was not a mediator; however, direct effects were present between depressive symptomatology and DV victimization and perpetration. Conclusions: Our results suggest that prevention interventions should target depressive symptomatology (i.e., hopelessness, feeling easily bothered, social isolation) and interpersonal competency (i.e., initiation, disclosure, emotional support) to reduce young mothers’ DV experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Family Violence
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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