About This Project

Adolescents are increasingly using digital technology as their main means of communication. However, we don't know very much about the role technology plays in romantic relationships. This project aims to answer that question by conducting focus groups and in-depth interviews with adolescents to understand in their own words how technology is impacting relationships and dating abuse.

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What is the context of this research?

One in three adolescents will report experiencing physical, verbal, or sexual abuse by the time they are 18. Dating abuse results in severe negative health and developmental outcomes for adolescents including substance abuse, poor academic performance, depression, and suicide.

Previous dating abuse research has typically focused on three sub-types of abuse: psychological, sexual, and physical abuse, each of which typically occurs in-person. However, another type of abuse that is beginning to gain more attention is digital dating abuse. Digital dating abuse is relationship abuse that occurs electronically via computers, blogs, mobile phones and other online social networking mechanisms.

What is the significance of this project?

Despite increased attention on digital dating abuse, we still don't know how adolescents view digital communication and technology in their romantic relationships and what they consider "normal" or "abusive" digital behavior.

Current dating abuse prevention approaches are designed to target in-person forms of dating abuse and thus may not be effective in preventing digital dating abuse. The proposed study will provide insights into how adolescents themselves characterize digital technologies and their role in dating abuse, which is important for developing prevention interventions to ensure they are relevant for adolescents and reflect their understandings.

What are the goals of the project?

In order to address the research questions of interest, I will conduct focus groups and in-depth interviews with adolescents. Specifically, I plan on conducting eight focus groups with adolescents between 16 and 18 years of age (four with men and four with women) to discuss how technology is involved in romantic relationships. I will then conduct approximately 30 in-depth interviews with adolescents between 16 and 18 years of age that will focus on how adolescents believe technology is used to abuse romantic partners. Adolescents will be eligible to participate if they have been on a date, use technology to communicate with other people, and have parental permission if they are under 18 years of age.


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Because this is a difficult population to reach, I will need to offer incentives to encourage their participation. I will give each adolescent a $20 VISA giftcard after they participate in a focus group or interview which is the standard incentive amount for this age group for this type of study.

I plan on having around five to six participants per focus group and 30 interview participants for a total of 70 to 78 adolescents.

I plan on using a small university grant ($300) to pay for office supplies, recording devices, and snacks for participants.

Due to the topic area, there are very few grants or funding opportunities available for doctoral students. This is why I need your help.

Meet the Team

Christine Agnew Brune
Christine Agnew Brune

Team Bio

My interest in violence prevention was sparked by witnessing the consequences of dating abuse. Specifically, a close friend in college was assaulted on campus at the hands of a former romantic partner. Going through the honor court trial with her made me realize how necessary education was about dating abuse but, more importantly, how little was done to teach young people about how to have healthy violence-free relationships.

A combination of my longstanding interest in digital communication and passion for healthy relationship development, conducting this study has been my goal for the past several years while working towards my PhD.

Additional Information

Teen leaders from a previous project who talked about how their friends used technology in unhealthy ways.
I had the pleasure of working with teens to prevent dating abuse for many years and they continue to inspire me and my research.

I have a family full of technology lovers!

Project Backers

  • 38Backers
  • 135%Funded
  • $2,026Total Donations
  • $53.32Average Donation
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