Teen dating violence appears to parallel violence in adult relationships in that it exists on a continuum ranging from verbal abuse to rape and murder (Sousa, 1999).Teen victims may be especially vulnerable due to their inexperience in dating relationships, their susceptibility to peer pressure and their reluctance to tell an adult about the abuse (Cohall, 1999).
Although there are methodological problems accurately determining prevalence rates, a conservative estimate is that one in three adolescents has experienced physical or sexual violence in a dating relationship (Avery-Leaf, Cascardi, O'Leary, & Cano, 1997).
These rates are higher when verbal abuse is included in the definition.
Teen dating violence can be prevented, especially when there is a focus on reducing risk factors as well as fostering protective factors, and when teens are empowered through family, friends, and others (including role models such as teachers, coaches, mentors, and youth group leaders) to lead healthy lives and establish healthy relationships.
It is important to create spaces, such as school communities, where the behavioral norms are not tolerant of abuse in dating relationships.
Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name calling, are a “normal” part of a relationship.
However, these behaviors can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence.Unfortunately, teen dating violence—the type of intimate partner violence that occurs between two young people who are, or who were once in, an intimate relationship—is a serious problem in the United States.A national survey found that ten percent of teens, female and male, had been the victims of physical dating violence within the past year and can increase the risk of physical injury, poor academic performance, binge drinking, suicide attempts, unhealthy sexual behaviors, substance abuse, negative body image and self-esteem, and violence in future relationships.Key risk factors consistently found in the literature to be associated with inflicting dating violence include the following: holding norms accepting or justifying the use of violence in dating relationships (Malik et al., 1997; O'Keefe, 1997); having friends in violent relationships (Arriaga & Foshee, 2004); exposure to violence in one's family and community violence (Foo & Margolin, 1995, O'Keefe, 1997; Schwartz et al., 1997); alcohol and drug use (O'Keeffe et al., 1986; Silverman et al., 2001); and a having a history of aggression (Riggs & O'Leary, 1989, Chase et al., 1998).The one factor that has consistently been associated with being the victim of dating violence, particularly for males, is inflicting dating violence (O'Keefe, 1997).The workgroup has met regularly since September 2006 to share information and coordinate teen dating violence programs, policy and research activities to combat teen dating violence from a public health perspective.