Dating Violence Affects 20% of 9th-12th Graders
A recent report from the Journal of American Medical Association (2001;286:572-579) reveals that approximately 1 in 5 female students (20.2% in 1997 and 18.0% in 1999) reported being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.
After controlling for the effects of potentially confounding demographics and risk behaviors, data from both surveys (of females 9th through 12th-grade students who participated in the 1997 and 1999 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (n = 1977 and 2186, respectively).indicate that physical and sexual dating violence against adolescent girls is associated with increased risk of substance use unhealthy weight control behaviors, sexual risk behaviors, pregnancy and attempted suicide.
The researchers concluded that “dating violence is extremely prevalent among this population, and adolescent girls report a history of experiencing dating violence are more likely to exhibit other serious health risk behaviors.”
Furthermore, the researchers noted that “Intimate partner violence against women is a major public health concern. Research among adults has shown that younger age is a consistent risk factor for experiencing and perpetrating intimate partner violence.”
Editor's Note: This study—as well as the following, which reveals that dating violence is being reported as early as eighth grade—is alarming and it is one of the reasons CAEPV created Girls Allowed, an exciting new program geared toward helping “tweens” and teens understand healthy relationships.
Dating Violence Reported as Early as 8th Grade
Similarly, researchers from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina surveyed 21,297 Vermont students in grades 8 through 12 about their fighting behavior and other health and behavioral experiences. The researchers compared those who said their last physical fight had been with a boyfriend, girlfriend, or date, with those who reported never fighting and those whose last fight was not date-related.
Overall, 1.6% of girls, and 0.5% of boys reported their last fight was with a date. This kind of fighting tended to increase as students got older. Of those who reported date fighting, 76% were female and 24% were male. This is almost the reverse of those whose last fight was not date related * 36.8% of those respondents were female, and 63.2% male. More than 10% of students reporting date fighting were in the eighth grade.
When compared to girls who never fought, those whose last fight was date-related tended to have more sexual partners, to report more forced intercourse, and to have been pregnant. They were also more likely to report injection and inhalant drug use, using drugs or alcohol before their last sexual experience, and riding in a vehicle with a drunken driver. These girls were also more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year.
Boys involved in date fighting showed somewhat differing patterns of behavior than girls. Date-fighting boys (when compared to those whose last fight was not date-related) were more likely to have had more same-sex sexual partners. They were more likely to be sexually active, to report forced sex, and to have gotten someone pregnant. However, use of drugs and alcohol were not related to date fighting in boys, nor was attempted suicide.
The authors believe their findings confirm that dating violence does occur among middle and high school students, and that it is associated with other health risk factors that are gender specific. The authors note that healthcare providers should be aware of some of the predictors associated with dating violence, and should refer at-risk students to appropriate programs. (Source: Pediatrics 1999; 104:1286-1292)