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Teen Dating Violence:
What Parents Need to Know

Dating is an exciting milestone for many teenagers. Building relationships, learning about oneself and another, and enjoying time spent with another is part of adolescence and young adulthood for many.

Unfortunately, teens in dating relationships are not immune from some of the issues that plague adult relationships. Current statistics show that 20% of adolescents report being a victim of psychological violence while 1 in 10 teens that have been on a date report physical abuse by a girlfriend or boyfriend.

Most importantly, dating violence can affect both boys and girls. Studies have shown that victims of dating violence are more likely to have negative behaviors and outcomes. One large study showed that teen girl victims of dating violence by a boyfriend were more likely to engage in smoking and heavy drinking, and to experience symptoms of depression and suicide five years later. Teen boys victimized by a girlfriend were more likely to have increased anti-social behaviors and suicidal thoughts, and were more likely to use marijuana five years later. Both males and females in abusive relationships as teens were two to three times more likely to be in violent relationships as adults.

What is dating violence?
Dating violence can be physical or emotional:

  • Physical abuse: pushing, shoving, hitting, or kicking in anger
  • Emotional abuse: threats; trying to control your partner’s behavior against his or her will; checking cell phones, emails or social networks without permission; extreme jealousy or insecurity and constant belitting or put-downs.

What is an unhealthy relationship?
Signs of an unhealthy relationship include lack of respect, feeling held back from school or activities, controlling behavior, feeling “crazy in love,” being blamed for your partner’s problems, feeling jealous most of the time, or trying to change your partner’s behavior.  Qualities of violent partners can include jealousy, explosive tempers, putting their partner down, isolation of their partner, being bossy or possessive, making false accusations, or putting pressure on their partner against his or her will. Fear, stress, or sadness, are not part of a healthy relationship.

What is a healthy relationship?
A healthy relationship is one that has respect, knowing that you make each other better people, sharing common interests while having outside activities and friends, and settling disagreements peacefully.

How can we prevent teen dating violence?
Our number one goal is prevention. Teens should be familiar with the warning signs of unhealthy relationships. Parents should talk to their teens about healthy relationships before dating happens. In addition, through positive role-modeling at home, teens can watch a healthy relationship in action.

Teachers and other trusted adults can also discuss dating violence and what entails a healthy relationship. This will help teens feel safe enough so when a relationship does cross the line, they feel comfortable enough to seek help from a trusted adult who may be a parent, teacher, coach, school counselor, spiritual leader, after school activity leader, or pediatrician. Your CPCMG pediatrician may ask your teen at their annual visit if they are currently in a relationship and how they feel in that relationship. If needed, your pediatrician will link adolescents quickly with prevention and treatment programs.

For more information, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 or visit http://www.thehotline.org/about-us/contact/ to begin a live chat. Another source for those experiencing dating violence or wanting help someone who is experiencing dating violence is loveisrespect.org (or 1-866-331-9474) for solutions on how to deal with an abusive relationship.

For more information on teen dating violence, please visit:

  1. healthychildren.org. Signs of teen dating violence
    https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/dating-sex/Pages/Dating-Violence-Tips-for-Parents.aspx
  2. healthychildren.org. Expect Respect: Healthy Relationships
    https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/dating-sex/Pages/Dating-Violence-Tips-for-Parents.aspx
  3. healthfinder.gov. Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month
    https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/FebruaryToolkit2.aspx

References:
American Academy of Pediatrics. “Teen Dating Violence Affects Health Later in Life.” AAP News Room. December 10, 2012.
https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Teen-Dating-Violence-Affects-Health-Later-in-Life.aspx

Exner-Cortens, Deinera, et al. “Longitudinal Associations Between Teen Dating Violence Victimization and Adverse Health Outcomes.” Pediatrics, vol. 131, no. 1, Jan. 2013.

United States, Congress, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.” Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. healthfinder.gov/NHO/FebruaryToolkit2.aspx.