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Teen Dating Violence: A Growing Problem

Last month was National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month as awareness was being raised among teens and the surrounding community about the signs, as well as to discourage this type of violence. Statistics show that 1 in 3 teens will experience dating violence and more than two-thirds never come forward and tell anyone. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), teen dating violence is a serious public health problem that is growing in the United States.  The CDC also reports that one in four adolescents individually report verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year.  Additionally, 10 percent of students nationwide report being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past 12 months.  Research has shown that dating or intimate partner violence can lead to serious injuries for its victims, poorer mental and physical health, more “high risk” or deviant behavior, and increased school avoidance for youth or young adults.  Literature reveals that dating violence is associated with higher levels of depression, suicidal thoughts, and poorer educational outcomes.  There are several factors associated with dating violence.  Some of these include environmental and social risk factors, including family, education, environment, peer influence, exposure to parental violence, community violence, alcohol or substance abuse, and even gender equity.  Dating violence and youth violence are more likely to occur in families characterized by social and economic disadvantage, parental separation and divorce, and community violence.

One factor, such as exposure to parental violence is a major risk factor that puts adolescents at high risk for dating violence later in life.  There have been hypotheses that children who are exposed to interparental violence are at greater risk for being victims or perpetrators of violence in romantic relationships during adolescence.  To reduce the risk of dating violence victimization, the healthcare community needs to implement more evidence-based youth dating violence and sexual assault prevention programs to reach the adolescent target audience. Similarly, more programs need to address marital and parenting programs that can reduce the incidence of parental violence, as well as produce broader benefits by improving the parenting of all who participate.  This is an essential step in the development of a comprehensive public health prevention initiative to end teen dating violence as behaviors are molded in the home. Clinicians also need to participate and contribute to this effort in order to construct the consistent and effective prevention techniques needed to decrease violence in the home, stigma involved around communication, increase communication skills, and protect the health of high risk adolescents and their parents.  More provisions need to be set in the community to discuss the importance of safe family environments.  Empowering people to have the ability to feel safe in a relationship and share this knowledge with their child is vital for developing future relationships, both romantically and casually. Continued robust research efforts are important to understand the role of repairing relationships and how exposed children recover and carry this into future relationships.

Ignoring this problem will never make it go away. Any type of violence is abuse, regardless of whether its male or female perpetrated. We need to set an example and raise awareness if we want to see healthy relationships for future generations.

Rebecca Kurikeshu


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