Maura O'Keefe With contributions from Leah Aldridge In the past several decades dating violence has emerged as a significant social and public health problem.
Adolescents often have difficulty recognizing physical and sexual abuse as such and may perceive controlling and jealous behaviors as signs of love (Levy, 1990).
Perhaps due to their need for autonomy and greater reliance on peers, teens involved in dating violence seldom report the violence to a parent or adult; if it is reported, most tell a friend and the incident never reaches an adult who could help (Cohall, 1999).
The focus of the present article is two fold: 1) to provide a critical review of the dating violence literature with respect to potential risk factors for both perpetrators and victims; and 2) to examine the empirical research regarding the effectiveness of prevention and intervention programs targeting teen dating violence.
Victims of teen dating violence are at increased risk of mood and behavior problems as young adults, and at increased risk for future violent relationships, a new study suggests.
Researchers who analyzed data from a nationally representative survey of 5,681 teens ages 12 to 18 found roughly 30% of both boys and girls said they had been the victim in an aggressive heterosexual dating relationship.
This adds to a body of research suggesting that teen dating violence "is a substantial public health problem," says the study, in today's Pediatrics.
About 20% of both girls and boys said they experienced only psychological violence; 2% of girls and 3% of boys said just physical. When researchers analyzed data from the same young adults five years later, they found notable differences:• Girls victimized by a teen boyfriend reported more heavy drinking, smoking, depression and thoughts of suicide.• Boys who had been victimized reported increased anti-social behaviors, such as delinquency, marijuana use and thoughts of suicide.• Those of both sexes who were in aggressive relationships as teens were two to three times more likely to be in violent relationships as young adults.
The data did not specifically address why many of the negative outcomes were different for boys and girls, or explain the conditions that led to revictimization, says Deinera Exner-Cortens, lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate in developmental psychology at Cornell University."We know that girls are more likely to experience more severe physical violence, sexual violence and injury, and they report more fear around their aggressive dating experiences," she says.
"We need more research to better understand how aggression functions in teen dating relationships."Healthy romantic relationships "are a very important developmental experience for teens," she adds.