Understanding Teen Dating Violence

Understanding Teen Dating Violence

Teen dating violence (TDV)— also called intimate relationship violence or intimate partner violence among adolescents or adolescent relationship abuse — includes physical, psychological or sexual abuse; harassment; or stalking of any person ages 12 to 18 in the context of a past or present romantic or consensual relationship. TDV, like relationship abuse in adulthood, impacts adolescents from all races, ethnicities, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

TDV has often been under estimated and under reported.  The National Institute of Justice estimates that 69%, or 2/3 of teens who had been in a relationship in the last year, had been victimized.  The most common form of abuse was verbal and/or emotional abuse, but there were substantial rates of physical abuse (18%) and sexual abuse (18%).  Despite this prevalence, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence reports that 3 in 4 parents have never discussed dating or domestic violence with their child.

In most cases of TDV, violence is used to get another to do what he/she wants, to gain power and control, to cause humiliation and to promote fear, and to retaliate against a partner (Foshee & Langwick, 2010).   In this way, TDV is similar to adult relationship violence but there are also some notable differences in dynamics between TDV and adult DV.  An article published by the National Institute of Justice discusses current research on TDV and concludes that there are three key differences between adult and teen dating relationships:

  • Abusive teen relationships typically lack the same unequal power dynamic found in adult intimate partner violence relationships. Adolescent girls are not often dependent on their partner for financial support and do not typically have children to provide for and protect.
  • Teens have limited experience with romantic relationships and negotiating conflict.
  • Teen relationships are more readily affected by the influence of peers.

Others have added the greater use of digital and social media as a primary method of control and emotional abuse in TDV.

The Impact of Teen Dating Violence

As teens develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by experiences in their relationships. Healthy relationship behaviors can have a positive effect on a teen’s emotional development. Unhealthy, abusive, or violent relationships can have short- and long-term negative effects on a developing teen. Youth who experience dating violence are more likely to:

  • Experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health symptoms
  • Engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol
  • Act out with illegal or unapproved behavior
  • Think about suicide
  • Academic difficulties
  • Disordered Eating

Additionally, youth who are victims of dating violence in high school are at higher risk for victimization during college and adulthood.