Research Article| Volume 49, ISSUE 3, P448-457, September 2015

A First Look at Gender Inequality as a Societal Risk Factor for Dating Violence


      One of ten U.S. high school students is a victim of adolescent dating violence (ADV). Understanding ADV risk factors guides prevention efforts; however, research examining community- and societal-level risk factors is scant. Societal gender inequality is a known risk factor for violence against women, but has yet to be explored in relation to ADV. This study aims to determine whether the Gender Inequality Index (GII) correlates with levels of physical and sexual ADV victimization across U.S. states.


      State-representative prevalence rates of self-reported physical and sexual ADV victimization were obtained from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The state GII includes five indicators: (1) maternal mortality; (2) adolescent birth rate; (3) government representation; (4) educational attainment; and (5) labor force participation. Pearson correlation coefficients determined the association between physical and sexual ADV victimization, the GII, and GII indicators. Analyses were conducted in August 2014.


      Among U.S. states, the prevalence of physical ADV victimization in 2013 ranged from 7.0% to 14.8%, and the prevalence of sexual ADV victimization ranged from 7.8% to 13.8%. The GII was significantly associated with the state prevalence of female physical ADV victimization (r=0.48, p<0.01) but not female sexual ADV victimization. Neither physical nor sexual male ADV victimization was associated with the GII.


      This exploratory study suggests that gender inequality may be a societal-level risk factor for female physical ADV victimization. As ADV prevention strategies are implemented at the state level, further research examining the effect of gender inequality on ADV is needed.
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