Every year, more than 5 million adult American women suffer physical abuse at the hands of a romantic partner. But dating violence isn't limited to adults, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, who studied dating violence among teens in the United States.
In 2003, CDC experts surveyed 14,956 high school students in the 50 states and the District of Columbia about their experiences with dating violence. The teens noted whether they'd ever been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend within the last year. In addition, the teens reported whether they:
- had sex within the last 3 months
- had attempted suicide within the last year
- smoked cigarettes
- drank heavily (five or more drinks in a row) within the last month
- got in a physical fight within the last year
Physical dating violence is common among teens: 1 in 11 of the teens reported being hit, slapped, or hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the year prior to the survey. The CDC estimates that based on the results of this study, nearly 1.5 million high school students experience physical dating violence.
Gender didn't affect the likelihood of abuse — both teen girls and guys experienced similar rates of dating violence. However, black teens were more likely to be victims of dating violence, compared with white and Hispanic teens. Having lower grades in school was also associated with a greater likelihood of being a victim of dating violence.
Several behaviors also affected a student's risk of being a violence victim. Being sexually active, attempting suicide, drinking heavily, and getting in physical fights were linked to an increased risk that a teen would be abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
What This Means to You. In teens, dating abuse is linked to patterns of violence that may negatively affect future relationships. The results of this survey indicate that not only is dating violence common among teens, but it's also related to risky behaviors such as sex, suicide attempts, drinking, and fighting, all of which can have a dangerous impact on a teen's health. If your child has been abused or is participating in some of the risky behaviors listed above, encourage him or her to seek help from a doctor or mental health professional to cope with emotions or to quit unhealthy habits and behaviors.
Source: M.C. Black, PHD; R. Noonan, PhD; M. Legg, MS; D. Eaton, PhD; M.J. Breiding, PhD; Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 19, 2006.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: June 2006