Methods: Six waves of community-based data were collected from 120 participants (60 females) ages 18-25, within a romantic relationship. Electronic data collection occurred once a month, for six months. Participants were screened for prior DA involvement in their current relationship or a past relationship, to recruit a high-risk sample. Data for this study were extracted from the baseline timepoint, and 6 months after baseline. Measures used to assess relevant variables were: Commitment level (Rev. Commitment Inventory) and dating aggression involvement (Rev. Conflict Tactic Scale).
Results: Hypotheses were assessed using a series of linear regression models. To capture change, we examined associations between DA and subsequent feelings of commitment, controlling for feelings of commitment at baseline. Contrary to hypotheses, DA was associated with decreases in relationship commitment. Specifically, psychological, physical, and sexual DA were associated with decreases in feelings of financial constraint, though specific findings varied (B = -.18 to -.57, ps = .015 to .05). Further, psychological DA was associated with reductions in feelings of social pressure to stay in a relationship (B = -0.22, p = .049) and sexual DA was associated with a reduction in a participant’s dedication to their partner (B = -0.73, p = .03).
Conclusions: Continued efforts toward DA prevention and intervention require a better understanding of the factors contributing to remaining in abusive relationships. The current study is the first to examine the potential links between DA and feelings of constraint and commitment within a specific relationship. Contrary to hypotheses, DA was associated with reduced feelings of commitment 6 months later. Discussion will focus on implications for interventions, particularly among indicated samples, and will address the need for continued within relationship studies of DA. By better understanding how DA impacts an individual’s commitment to their partner, interventions can be designed to better support individuals to leave an abusive relationship and prevent ongoing DA.