Adolescent dating violence and identity development : a South African perspective

Leaver, Matthew (2007-12)

Thesis (MA (Psychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This assignment attempts to explore how certain factors that play a role in the perpetration of dating violence among South African male adolescents are related to identity development. While there has been much investigation of the factors relating to dating violence, much less has been written about how these factors are related to the developmental tasks of adolescence. This assignment starts with a brief exploration of local and international literature on adolescent and adult dating violence. Certain factors that are considered to be particularly relevant to adolescent dating violence are then highlighted. These are exposure to trauma, alcohol and drug use, peer group influences, and aggressive and misogynist expressions of masculinity. The main focus of the thesis is then to investigate the extent to which these factors can be tied to one of the main developmental tasks of adolescence, namely identity formation. It is argued that, while adolescence is a phase in which identity is being developed, identity formation can be compromised by early exposure to aggression. This, together with the desire to imitate significant others, may lead to a re-enactment of aggression. Alternatively, it can lead to a heightened identity confusion, which may create a greater reliance on external sources, most significantly the peer group. It is possible that, for acceptance, the peer group may require an expression of masculinity that is misogynist and aggressive. Given that dating relationships are an arena in which identities are negotiated with a peer group, it is possible that the aggression that is encouraged may find expression within these dating associations. The abuse of alcohol and drugs, modelled by others in early life and encouraged by the peer group, serves to augment the likelihood of dating violence. This process is also discussed in the light of the post-Apartheid South African context. Understanding the abovementioned factors in terms of identity development has implications for empirical enquiry and prevention programmes. It is argued that research should take into account the developmental tasks of adolescence, whilst attempting to understand the unique challenges that face adolescents in South Africa. Intervention programmes should be focused on assisting adolescent males with the developmental task of identity negotiation.

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