Domestic Violence Affects 1 In 5 Teen Girls, With Implications For Future Mental And Physical Health

Teen Dating Violence
A new CDC study finds that one in five teen girls suffers some form of physical, emotional, or sexual violence at the hands of her boyfriend. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

As with most things, when it comes to what teens learn, the relationships they have early on will shape the way they approach future love interests. Stable, healthy relationships nurture emotional health, which then has a positive effect on a teen’s development as she grows into adulthood. Teen dating violence (TDV) compromises this process, though, and a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found one in five teen girls has experienced some form of the abuse.

Published in JAMA Pediatrics, the CDC’s study found that teen boys, too, experience TDV, although at about half the rate of teen girls — 10.4 percent, according to a press release. The study involved asking over 9,900 students about both physical and sexual TDV, with questions asking how many times someone “physically hurt you on purpose” and “how many times did someone you were dating or going out with force you to do sexual things that you did not want to do?”

Of all the girls who reported dating, 6.6 percent said they’d experienced some form of physical TDV in the past 12 months. Meanwhile, eight percent said they’d been victims to sexual TDV, 6.4 percent said they’d experienced both, and 20.9 percent had been victims to “any” form of TDV — while it can be sexual and physical, TDV also includes psychological and emotional abuse. When it came to teen boys, 4.1 percent said they’d experienced physical TDV, while 2.9 percent said they were victims of sexual TDV, and just over three percent said they were victims of both.

Intimate partner violence, regardless of the age it happens, has lasting effects on the victim’s physical and mental health. At the surface, these effects include symptoms of depression and anxiety; tobacco, alcohol, and drug use; antisocial behavior; and thoughts of suicide. But these outcomes often lead to other issues too, such as sleep disorders, migraines, and even poor dental health. Many of the teens who reported any form of TDV were already partaking in these behaviors, making it all the more critical to intervene in these situations for the sake of their future health.

About 10 percent of all American teens report experiencing some form of intimate partner violence. Prevention strategies such as the CDC’s “Dating Matters” program focus on strengthening communities through schools, students’ peers, and families to encourage healthy relationships among each other. In doing so, teens will not only develop emotional health, but they’ll also have the stability to focus on what really matters — their future success.

Source: Vagi K, O’Malley Olsen E, Basile K, Vivolo-Kantor A. Teen Dating Violence (Physical and Sexual) Among US High School Students: Findings From the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. JAMA Pediatrics. 2015. 

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