Teen dating violence (TDV) also known as intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs among adolescents and teens in dating and romantic relationships. TDV can include physical, psychological or sexual abuse; harassment; or stalking of any person between the ages of 12 to 18. TDV like many other forms of violence and abuse extends beyond racial, ethnic, religious, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Violence that occurs during the course of a dating relationship can be committed against both males and females and exist within both heterosexual as well as same sex relationships. TDV like bullying can take place in person, or via social media creating additional distress as the victim feels unable to escape the abuse. According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) millions of teenagers each year are in an abusive dating relationship.
A comparison of Intimate Partner Violence rates between teens and adults reveal that teens are at higher risk of violence than adults. Abuse that occurs during teen dating relationships can have both immediate as well as long-term negative implications. Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications for victims: many will continue to be abused in their adult relationships and are at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, and suicide. Unhealthy dating relationships formed in adolescence can create a false sense of what it means to be in a relationship, e.g., how to communicate in a relationship, build and sustain trust, agree to disagree, manage conflicts, etc. Healthy coping skills that are not present or developed in early dating relationships can become reinforced over time making healthy adult relationships difficult to attain and sustain.
Teen dating violence can negatively influence the development of healthy sexuality, intimacy, and identity as youth grow into adulthood. Teens that are abused during dating relationships are also more likely to be at an increased risk of physical injury, poor academic performance, binge drinking, suicide attempts, unhealthy sexual behaviors, substance abuse, cutting, negative body image, suffer from poor self-esteem, and violence in future relationships. The need to be in relationships that include heightened often explosive emotional responses to perceived wrongs can convey the belief for some that the abuser loves him or her.
Healthy dating relationships can be described as mutually interdependent relationships between individuals. Healthy relationships consist of mutual respect, support, freedom to express his or her thoughts and feelings, trust, honesty, good communication, compromise, and equality.
Signs of an Unhealthy Teen Dating Relationship May Include:
• Significant change in mood and behavior
• Decline in academic performance
• Self-isolation from friends and family (anyone other than current partner)
• Bite marks, bruises, scratches, pushing, pinching, shoving, slapping, etc.
• Discontinuing involvement with extra-curricular activities
• Appearing uncomfortable or fearful around partner
• Personal possessions damaged, missing, or destroyed
• Deferring to partner to make all decisions without mutual discussion or agreement
• Quick and intense involvement in a relationship
• No longer participating in things or activities once enjoyed
• Acting secretive or acting out
• Apologizing or justifying partner’s behavior, especially his/her temper
• A pattern of violent relationships
• Engage in early sexual activity and have multiple sexual partners
• Alcohol or substance abuse
• Name calling or berating
• School suspension for fighting
• Preoccupation with appearance
• Eating disorders or sudden weight loss
• Threatening to harm a partner
• Monitoring partners behaviors
• Forcing partner to engage in sex or a sex act when he or she does not want to
• Think about suicide
• Witness or experience violence in the home
As adolescents grow and develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by experiences in their relationships. Adolescents receive cues on what it means to be in romantic relationships from the adults around them, relationships depicted in the media, and viewing other peer relationships. Healthy relationship behaviors can have a positive effect on a teen’s emotional development. Unhealthy, abusive, or violent relationships can have both short-term and long-term negative effects on a developing teen. It is important for teens to have the opportunity to witness healthy nurturing relationships from responsible adults. Teens with healthy role models are more likely than teen without healthy roles models to have healthy dating experiences. It is important to create safe spaces, such as school communities, where the behavioral norms are not tolerant of abuse in dating relationships. The message must be clear that treating people in abusive ways will not be accepted, and policies must enforce this message to keep students safe.
Teens in dating relationships can benefit from developing and utilizing appropriate communication skills with his or her partner, managing uncomfortable emotions like anger and jealousy, and treating others with respect.