Can informal mentor support moderate the relationship between adolescent dating violence victimization and substance use?
Vengurlekar, I. N., Steggerda, J. C., Brown, M., Kiefer, J. L., & Cavell, T. A. (2022). Informal mentoring support as a potential moderator of the relation between adolescent dating violence victimization and substance use. Journal of Community Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22968
Summarized by Ariel Ervin
Notes of Interest:
- Adolescent dating violence (ADV) victimization is associated with substance use and a variety of other negative outcomes.
- Informal mentorships correlate with reduced substance use & a variety of other positive youth outcomes.
- Evidence shows that youths are more likely to disclose their experience of SDV to their informal mentors than to parents.
- This study assesses whether informal mentor support mitigates substance use among high school students who experienced ADV.
- There is a significant correlation between ADV victimization and adolescent substance use involvement.
- The researchers couldn’t identify a relationship between informal mentor support and ADV victimization or substance use involvement.
- However, findings provide some evidence that the relationship between ADV victimization and substance use differs depending on informal mentor support levels.
- ADV victimization significantly correlated with adolescent substance use involvement when informal mentor support was at the mean or low.
- ADV victimization was unrelated to substance use when informal mentoring support was high.
- Parents, teachers, counselors, and other adults/professionals need to consider the potential benefits of informal youth mentoring relationships.
- Researchers interested in conducting further research on this subject need to explore whether informal mentors’ protective roles depend on an individual mentor’s relationship with their mentee (teacher, coach, neighbor, etc.).
Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)
Research links adolescent dating violence (ADV) victimization to negative developmental outcomes, including involvement in substance use. Informal mentoring is associated with several positive outcomes, including reduced risk of substance use. Addressed in this study is whether support from an informal mentor can function to protect victims of ADV from involvement in substance use. Participants were 152 adolescents (grades 9–12). Findings revealed a significant association between ADV victimization and adolescents’ involvement in substance use, as well as some evidence that support from an informal mentor moderates that link. When informal mentor support was low or at the mean, ADV victimization was significantly linked to adolescents’ involvement in substance use; when informal mentor support was high, ADV victimization was unrelated to substance use involvement. Discussed are research and practice implications of the potential protective role of informal mentors for victims of ADV.
Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)
To our knowledge, this was the first study to test whether support from informal mentors would moderate the relation between ADV victimization and substance use involvement. In line with previous research linking ADV victimization with negative developmental outcomes, we found that ADV victimization was significantly and positively related to substance use involvement (Exner-Cortens et al., 2013; Haynie et al., 2013; S. R. Taylor & Sullivan, 2021). However, we failed to find a relation between support from informal mentors and either ADV victimization or substance use involvement. These unexpected findings stand in contrast to previous research (Hurd et al., 2014; Mauer et al., 2021; Zimmerman et al., 2002) that found positive outcomes among youth who had an informal mentor in their life. Although it is possible that support from informal mentors is simply unrelated to ADV victimization or substance use involvement, we suspect it is more likely that ADV victimization and substance use involvement are determined by a confluence of factors that supersede the role of youths’ relationship with a mentor (Taquette & Monteiro, 2019; Watt & Rogers, 2007; Whitesell et al., 2013).
Despite failing to find direct linkages between informal mentor support and ADV victimization or adolescent substance use involvement, we did find evidence that the relation between ADV victimization and substance use involvement varies based on level of support from an informal mentor. When informal mentor support was low or at the mean, greater exposure to ADV victimization was associated with an increased likelihood of substance use involvement. However, when informal mentor support was high, exposure to ADV victimization was unrelated to substance use involvement. Mapes and Cavell (2021) found youth were more likely to disclose about ADV victimization to informal mentors than to parents and to rate their relationship with informal mentors as more positive than relationships with parents and friends. When considered alongside the current findings, results reported by Mapes and Cavell suggest that support from informal mentors might be especially helpful when youth victimized by their dating partner are reluctant to disclose to or seek support from parents and friends. This interpretation is supported by research documenting the potential benefits of disclosure and social support for victims of ADV (e.g., Banyard & Cross, 2008; Holt & Espelage, 2005; Sylaska & Edwards, 2014).
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