“It was a joke:” Patterns in girls’ and boys’ self-reported motivations for digital dating abuse behaviors

Lauren A. Reed, Siobhan M. Lawler, Jenny Mc Cullough Cosgrove, Richard M. Tolman, L. Monique Ward

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Scopus citations


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

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number105883
    JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
    StatePublished - Mar 2021


    • Adolescents
    • Cyber dating abuse
    • Perpetration
    • Social media
    • Teen dating abuse

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Education
    • Developmental and Educational Psychology
    • Sociology and Political Science


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