The Grapevine

Dating Violence: Teen Boys More Likely To Report Incidents Than Girls

While overall rates of teen dating violence are on decline, new findings suggested teenage boys were more likely to report being the victim of dating violence than girls were. The analysis of trends was conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Canada.

The paper titled "Ten-Year Trends in Physical Dating Violence Victimization Among Adolescent Boys and Girls in British Columbia, Canada" was published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence on July 18. 

Dating violence refers to intentional physical harm by a romantic partner, which includes being hit, slapped, pushed, kicked etc. The problem exists not only among adults but also adolescents — estimates suggested more than a million high school students in the United States experience physical abuse from a dating partner.

The new study, while based in Canada, is the first in North America to compare dating violence trends for boys and girls. Data was sourced from three B.C. Adolescent Health Surveys with nearly 36,000 participants in grade 7 to grade 12.

The team arrived at an encouraging finding as there was a decline in teenagers experiencing dating violence when compared to the previous decade. Five percent of the age group reported dating violence in 2013, which was a reduction from 6 percent in 2003.

But when comparing rates between boys and girls, 5.8 percent of the former and 4.2 percent of the latter reported experiencing dating violence in the past year. The researchers said they were surprised by this finding.

Often, when people hear terms like "dating violence," or "abuse by a romantic partner," they tend to visualize the woman as the victim and the man as the perpetrator. The well-known double standard which dismisses male trauma, wrongly implies men cannot be hurt or abused by women. 

Catherine Shaffer, first author and Ph.D. student from SFU, said there was a need for more research to understand the reason for the gender difference.

"It could be that it's still socially acceptable for girls to hit or slap boys in dating relationships," she speculated. "This has been found in studies of adolescents in other countries as well."

While overall rates seem to have fallen by 1 percent over the course of decade, it was still considered a notable decline suggesting healthy relationship programs in the country are effective. Now, the next step may simply involve more conversations about gender-based double standards to deal with aggressive adolescents.

"A lot of our interventions assume that the girl is always the victim, but these findings tell us that it isn't always so," said Elizabeth Saewyc, senior study author and UBC nursing professor.

Results of this study, she believed, were among the reasons why more support programs need to be put in place for adolescents in dating relationships.

Even before their first date, both male and female teens should be taught about what a healthy relationship looks like. Healthcare providers, parents, teachers, and caregivers have to play a crucial role here in raising awareness.