Study: Dating Violence Is Common Among Teenagers

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Cultura/Britt Erlanson

As if there weren’t enough to worry about when it comes to the teenage years, a new study reveals that dating violence — both physical and verbal — among adolescents is surprisingly common. What’s more, teenagers who reported violence against girlfriends or boyfriends were also likely to have perpetrated violence against friends, family members and others.

“The majority of students who were being violent with their dating partners were generally violent. They weren’t selecting their dating partners specifically for violence,” said Emily F. Rothman, lead researcher and assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health. (More on The Tricky Politics of Tween Bullying)

For the study, researchers surveyed 1,398 students from 22 urban high schools in Boston in 2008. They asked the students to report how many times in the past month they had perpetrated violence against peers, family members or people they were romantically involved with.

Overall, nearly 19% of students reported physically abusing a romantic partner in the past month, including pushing, shoving, hitting, punching, kicking or choking. Nearly 43% reported verbally abusing their partner, cursing at them or calling them fat, ugly, stupid or some other insult. (More on Study: ‘Hyper-Texting’ Teens More Likely to Have Had Sex, Tried Drugs)

Among the students with siblings, more girls (61%) than boys (51%) acknowledged using some kind of violence against another person, with violence against romantic partners being more commonly perpetrated by girls than by boys. But in both boys and girls, the tendency to assault a romantic partner overlapped with the likelihood of using violence against siblings and peers.

As HealthDay reported:

The study has some caveats, however. The students — nearly 80 percent of whom were black or Hispanic — only came from public high schools. Those who weren’t recently dating were excluded, and the findings were self-reported. Also, motives were not examined, so it’s unknown if any teens acted in self-defense.

Still, the results can help people who work with teenagers detect dating violence, Rothman said. “This study supports the idea that we should go to those kids who are being violent with siblings and peers and address their violent behavior in general,” she said.

The researchers theorized that dating violence was just one of several problem behaviors — such as weapon carrying, academic difficulty and substance abuse — that occur together in teenagers. Those who had run into legal trouble or been caught carrying weapons and ditching school were more likely to report violent dating behavior, as were teens who had witnessed violence in their communities. (More on Study: Teen Girls More Likely to Have Risky Sex Than Teen Boys)

The new study was published in the December issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

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