Ambiguity and Violence in Adolescent Dating Relationships

Publication Title

Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing

Publication Date


Document Type





adolescent, dating violence, phenomenology


Medicine and Health Sciences | Nursing


PROBLEM: Little is known about dyadic processes that lead to adolescent dating violence. The purpose of this study was to examine the phenomenon of relationship ambiguity in adolescent dating relationships to better understand how ambiguity contributes to violence and aggression between dating partners.

METHODS: Data were drawn from 88 narratives of young adults who had participated in a study on adolescent dating violence. Interpretive phenomenology was used to produce an in-depth description of the phenomenon of relationship ambiguity.

FINDINGS: Relationship ambiguity results in differing expectations between partners regarding closeness and intimacy, fidelity, and obligation. These differences lead to conflicts that set the stage for violence and aggression in adolescent dating relationships.

CONCLUSIONS: A series of recommendations for clinicians working with adolescents are presented.