This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Effects of Exposure to Interparental Coercive Control on Peer Relationships During High School




Hlavaty, Kathleen

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Human Development and Family Studies


Domestic violence (DV) is conceptualized as a combination of both physical violence and coercive control in the adult literature, yet the youth exposure literature mostly conceptualizes and measures DV without examining the role of coercive control. More recently, exposure to coercive control has explained variations in youth adjustment outcomes when controlling for physical violence, providing support for its inclusion into the youth exposure literature. Building from this literature, the present study examined the role of DV exposure, including physical violence and coercive control, to examine how DV exposure is associated with peer relationships. Though previous literature has suggested that DV exposure is associated with poorer peer relationships, these findings are not consistent across studies. Thus, the goals of the present dissertation are to examine (1) how DV exposure is associated with peer relationship experiences (e.g., bullying victimization and perpetration, friendship quality) using a comprehensive measure of DV exposure that includes frequency of physical violence exposure and coercive control exposure, and (2) how high school peer relationship experiences moderate the association between exposure to coercive control and internalizing problems (e.g., social anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms) during young adulthood. Data for the present dissertation comes from phase two of the Young Adult Live and Learn (Y’ALL) Project. Young adults (N = 147; 72.1% female; 74.1% European American) between the ages of 18 and 25 who were exposed (n = 99) or not (n = 48) to father-to-mother DV. Participants reported on their DV exposure experiences, peer relationship experiences, and internalizing problems through an online survey. Results indicate that exposure to coercive control, controlling for physical violence exposure, is associated with more bullying victimization and friendship quality. Neither exposure to physical violence nor exposure to coercive control was associated with bullying perpetration. Contrary to hypotheses, bullying victimization and perpetration did not moderate the association between exposure to coercive control and internalizing problems; however, friendship quality was protective against social anxiety in the context of exposure to coercive control. Overall, findings from the present dissertation add to the small, but growing, body of literature that demonstrates how exposure to coercive control should be measured as a salient dimension of DV when understanding how exposure to DV is associated with a variety of outcomes during adolescence and young adulthood.