When conflict escalates into intimate partner violence: The delicate nature of observed coercion in adolescent romantic relationships

Phuong Ha, Hanjoe Kim, Shannon McGill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


We investigated how initial conflicts in adolescent romantic relationships escalate into serious forms of conflict, including intimate partner violence (IPV). We focused on whether adolescents' micro-level interaction patterns, i.e., coercion and positive engagement, mediated between conflict and future IPV. The sample consisted of 91 heterosexual couples, aged 13 to 18 years (M = 16.5, SD = 0.99) from a diverse background (42% Hispanic/Latino, 42% White). Participants completed surveys about conflict at Time 1, and they participated in videotaped conflict and jealousy discussions. At Time 2, participants completed surveys about conflict and IPV, and an average daily conflict score was calculated from ecological momentary assessments. Multilevel hazard models revealed that we did not find support for dyadic coercion as a risk process leading to escalations in conflict. However, a higher likelihood of ending dyadic positive behaviors mediated between earlier levels of conflict and a latent construct of female conflict and IPV. Classic coercive dynamics may not apply to adolescent romantic relationships. Instead, not being able to reinforce levels of positivity during conflict predicted conflict and IPV as reported by females. The implications of these findings for understanding coercion in the escalation from conflict to IPV in adolescent romantic relationships are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019



  • adolescent romantic relationships
  • coercion
  • intimate partner violence
  • multilevel hazard models
  • observational studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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