Observed conflict among Mexican American adolescent dating couples: understanding the roles of Acculturation, gender, and communication behaviors
Communication skills within dating contexts are developed during the adolescent years, and are associated with a lifelong ability to have satisfying, enduring, and non-violent partnerships. As such, they are currently and increasingly implemented into both more general forms of healthy relationship education, as well as that targeting the prevention of teen dating violence specifically. Reaching Mexican American youth with culturally and developmentally appropriate relationship education, including communication skills, may be particularly important given their earlier transitions to marital and parenting relationships, acculturative stressors that present them with unique coupling challenges, and their higher rates of teen dating violence as compared to European American youth. We know very little about how Mexican American dating couples communicate about areas of conflict. This dissertation research utilizes Bell and Naugle's (2008) framework of interpersonal violence to explore how cultural and developmental considerations may be integrated in order to better understand how communication behaviors contribute to Mexican American middle adolescents' experiences with dating conflict. I use an observational study design in order to 1.) Qualitatively explore the communication strategies used by a sample of committed couples, including integration of culturally- and developmentally-relevant contexts, 2.) Quantitatively examine whether couple-level discrepancies in acculturation are associated with observed negativity, including whether this relationship may be mediated by dissimilar gender-related beliefs, and to 3.) Review empirical findings pertaining to the communication behaviors of Mexican American adolescents and to integrate ecodevelopmental theory in said framework as informed by Papers 1, 2, and literature specific to this topic area. The ultimate aim of this dissertation research is to generate findings that may improve the dating health of Mexican American adolescents living in the United States.