When conflict escalates into intimate partner violence: The delicate nature of observed coercion in adolescent romantic relationships

Thao Ha, Hanjoe Kim, Shannon McGill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated how initial conflicts in adolescent romantic relationships escalate into serious forms of conflict, including intimate partner violence (IPV). We focused on whether adolescents' micro-level interaction patterns, i.e., coercion and positive engagement, mediated between conflict and future IPV. The sample consisted of 91 heterosexual couples, aged 13 to 18 years (M = 16.5, SD = 0.99) from a diverse background (42% Hispanic/Latino, 42% White). Participants completed surveys about conflict at Time 1, and they participated in videotaped conflict and jealousy discussions. At Time 2, participants completed surveys about conflict and IPV, and an average daily conflict score was calculated from ecological momentary assessments. Multilevel hazard models revealed that we did not find support for dyadic coercion as a risk process leading to escalations in conflict. However, a higher likelihood of ending dyadic positive behaviors mediated between earlier levels of conflict and a latent construct of female conflict and IPV. Classic coercive dynamics may not apply to adolescent romantic relationships. Instead, not being able to reinforce levels of positivity during conflict predicted conflict and IPV as reported by females. The implications of these findings for understanding coercion in the escalation from conflict to IPV in adolescent romantic relationships are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1729-1739
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial Support. Funding for this research was provided to Ha by the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics as part of the Lives of Teens Enterprise and from the REACH Institute at Arizona State University. Ha was supported during preparation of this manuscript by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA07031) and a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (AA022071). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the official views of the National Institute on Drug Abuse or the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright 2019 Cambridge University Press.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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