UGA researcher to study impact of online dating abuse on marginalized teens

UGA’s Danielle Lambert has received a $250,000 award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to research how cyber dating abuse impacts marginalized adolescents in the South.

For many young people today, a large share of their social experiences, including dating, can happen online.

This means that more and more teens are experiencing instances of online dating violence, yet little is understood about how this type of violence occurs and its impact on adolescents – particularly those who are already at greater risk for negative health outcomes.

Now, a University of Georgia researcher is investigating digital technologies and their role in both perpetuating and preventing online violence among marginalized adolescents.

Danielle Lambert, a postdoctoral fellow at UGA’s College of Public Health, received a two-year $250,000 K01 award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to research the prevalence, frequency, and severity of cyber dating abuse among sexual and gender minority adolescents 13-17 years of age in the Deep South, as well as how digital platforms could be used for violence prevention and intervention.

K01 awards are early career development awards that provide in depth training and mentorship to cultivate future research leaders. Lambert’s proposal received an impact score of 10, the best possible score.

Lambert, who earned her doctorate from UGA CPH, has substantial experience in research projects focused on adolescent health, sexual and gender minority health, disparities in the South, mHealth and health communication.

This work will be one of the first focused efforts to understand how cyber dating abuse affects LGBTQIA teens in the South. Cyber dating abuse is a term that covers a range of online behaviors from stalking and harassment to coercion and sharing intimate photos or videos without consent.

The project aims to first answer the question, how common is this issue among LGBTQIA adolescents in the South, and Lambert wants to understand the different types and degree of cyber dating abuse this community is experiencing, in addition to how online experiences of violence relate to offline violence and abuse.

Many LGBTQIA teens, said Lambert, may not feel comfortable seeking care and support for issues that may expose their sexual or gender identity due to their environment. And they are likely marginalized in other ways.

“They could be experiencing racial or gender bias, housing instability, and face barriers to accessing education or basic needs,” said Lambert. “There are so many things that go hand in hand with health disparities that are experienced by this community that makes this such a detrimental issue that needs to be addressed.”

In addition to experiencing higher rates of violence, LGBTQIA adolescents also face unique barriers to reporting abuse and seeking help, so this research will also explore this community’s comfort with receiving support through digital channels. Lambert hopes these findings can help inform future violence prevention and safety programs geared toward sexual and gender minorities.

Andrea Swartzendruber, UGA CPH assistant professor and expert in sexual and adolescent health, will be Lambert’s primary mentor. Co-mentors include Pamela Orpinas and Ye Shen, both at the UGA College of Public Health, Patrick Sullivan with Emory University, and Carolyn Lauckner at the University of Kentucky.

Read the story on UGA Today.

– Lauren Baggett

Posted on February 12, 2021.