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Keywords:

  • adolescent dating abuse;
  • adolescent health;
  • feminist research;
  • gender;
  • nursing theory;
  • theory-practice gap;
  • violence

burton c.w., halpern-felsher b., rankin s.h., rehm r.s. & humphreys j.c. (2011) Relationships and betrayal among young women: theoretical perspectives on adolescent dating abuse. Journal of Advanced Nursing67(6), 1393–1405.

Abstract

Aims.  Adolescent dating abuse is not specifically described by any current nursing theory, and this article presents discussion of some existing theories that could inform a nursing theory of adolescent dating abuse. To account for the effects of gender, this discussion is limited to young women.

Background.  Adolescent dating abuse is an important and understudied international issue for nursing. Theoretical frameworks can support development of nursing scholarship for such issues. No single theory yet exists in nursing to explain the experiences and health ramifications of dating abuse among young women.

Data sources.  A summary table of theories is provided. Literature was gathered via database search and bibliographic snowballing from reference lists of relevant articles. Included literature dates from 1982 through 2010.

Discussion.  Theories of relationship formation and function are discussed, including attachment, investment, feminist and gender role conflict theories. Betrayal trauma theory is considered as a mechanism of injury following an abusive dating experience.

Implications for nursing.  Gender, relationship and adolescence combine in a complex developmental moment for young women. To improve nursing care for those at risk for or in the throes of abusive relationships, it is critical to develop specific nursing approaches to understanding these relationships.

Conclusion.  Existing theories related to relationship and traumatic experiences can be combined in the development of a nursing theory of adolescent dating abuse among young women.