Longitudinal Effects of Electronic Dating Violence on Depressive Symptoms and Delinquent Behaviors Across Adolescence

Thulin, E. J., Kusunoki, Y., Kernsmith, P. D., Smith-Darden, J. P., Grogan-Kaylor, A., Zimmerman, M., & Heinze, J. E.


Depressive symptoms and delinquent behaviors that emerge during adolescence pose both short- and long-term negative outcomes. Though there is growing evidence that exposure to teen dating violence is also associated with a greater likelihood of depressive symptoms and delinquent behaviors such as engaging in peer violence and substance use, less is known about the effects of specific forms of electronic dating violence (i.e., electronic harassment, electronic coercion, and electronic monitoring) across adolescence on depressive symptoms and delinquent behaviors. Data were drawn from a 4-year prospective longitudinal study of two cohorts of youth followed from age 12 to 15 (n = 526, 52% female) and age 15 to 18 (n = 592, 53% female). Two mixed-effects models (stratified by cohort) were employed to evaluate depressive symptoms and delinquent behavior outcomes by exposure to electronic harassment, electronic coercion, and electronic monitoring, while accounting for verbal dating violence, physical dating violence, sexual dating violence, exposure to threat-based adverse childhood experiences, exposure to deprivation-based adverse childhood experiences, and gender across all four waves of data collection. Higher exposure to electronic sexual coercion was predictive of increased depression (β = .015, p = .018). Increased exposure to electronic sexual coercion (β = .007, p = .004) and electronic monitoring (β = .008, p = .045) were both predictive of more delinquency across adolescence. By delineating the effects of in-person verbal, physical, and sexual dating violence with unique electronic domains, we found unique additional risk from domains of electronic dating violence, which was particularly pronounced for youth who reported electronic sexual coercion. Electronic sexual coercion heightens the risk of depressive symptoms and delinquent behaviors in males and females beyond the risk presented by in-person forms of dating violence and should be accounted for in prevention and intervention programs. Future research should explore the effect of perceived normativity on the prevalence of electronic harassment and subsequent influence on outcomes.
Keywords: electronic dating, adolescence delinquent behavior, adolescence depressive symptoms