Relationship Churning, Physical Violence, and Verbal Abuse in Young Adult Relationships

Sarah Halpern-Meekin, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
Wendy D. Manning, Bowling Green State University
Peggy C. Giordano, Bowling Green State University
Monica A. Longmore, Bowling Green State University

Young adults’ romantic relationships are often unstable, commonly including breakup-reconcile patterns. From the developmental perspective of emerging adulthood exploration, such relationship “churning” is expected; however, minor conflicts are more common in churning relationships. Using TARS data (n = 792), we test whether relationship churning is associated with more serious conflict: physical violence and verbal abuse. Those who are stably broken up (breakup only – no reconciliation) are similar to those who are stably together in their conflict experiences. In contrast, churners (i.e., those involved in on-off relationships) are twice as likely as those who are stably together or stably broken up to report physical violence and half again as likely to report the presence of verbal abuse in their relationships; this association between churning and conflict holds net of a host of demographic, personal, and relationship characteristics. These findings have implications for better understanding unhealthy relationship behaviors.

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Presented in Session 9: Sexual and Romantic Relationships