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"It was a joke:" Patterns in girls' and boys' self-reported motivations for digital dating abuse behaviors

NCJ Number
Children and Youth Services Review Volume: 122 Dated: 2021
L. A. Reed; et al
Date Published

This study drew from survey research with 703 high school students and used multiple methods to explore digital dating abuse (DDA) motivations.


Digital dating abuse (DDA) is a pattern of behaviors using mobile phones and social media to harass, pressure, coerce, and threaten a dating partner. Little is known about teen girls’ and boys’ motivations to perpetrate digital dating abuse. In the current study, quantitative analyses found that frequent motivations for DDA behaviors included it was a joke, I was upset, I was angry, and we were in a fight. Few gender differences were found. Qualitative data pattern analysis provided additional context to DDA motivation responses. Patterns of DDA motivations differed depending on the type of DDA behavior. When participants reported multiple motivations for a behavior, there was some common clustering of motivations across participants. It was a joke was indeed a common motivation for some DDA behaviors, but participants often reported multiple motivations, which made these responses more difficult to interpret. Sexual DDA behaviors were particularly gendered. These results have important implications for our understanding of DDA perpetration among teens and future DDA assessment and measurement. (Publisher Abstract Provided)