Romantic relationships are a common part of adolescence. However, not all relationships are healthy.
February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, an opportunity to raise awareness of teen dating violence and connect youth with the necessary resources.
What is teen dating violence?
Teen dating violence covers many abusive relationship behaviors, including physical and sexual violence, psychological aggression, and stalking by current or past romantic partners. It can take place in person, online, or through other technology.
Teen dating violence statistics at a glance
Teen dating violence affects millions of youth in the United States every year. In 2019, about 1 in 11 female teens and 1 in 14 male teens reported being victims of physical dating violence, according to teen dating violence statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual students and students not sure of their sexual orientation are at particular risk of teen dating violence. CDC data shows that these students were more likely than heterosexual students to report physical or sexual dating violence in 2019.
How is OJP helping prevent teen dating violence?
- Risk factors for victimization or perpetration
- Consequences experienced by victims
- Effectiveness of programs designed to prevent or reduce teen dating violence
Teen dating violence is a public health problem that doesn't end at adolescence. Research supported by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) found those who experienced relationship violence in adolescence reported more episodes of relationship violence from adolescence to young adulthood. The study also showed that relationship abuse peaked in young adulthood, around age 20, for both men and women.
NIJ-supported research also highlights the importance of family context in the development of teen dating violence. For example, aspects of parenting (e.g., lower maternal acceptance) and exposure to marital conflict were shown to be associated with involvement in teen dating violence. The research suggests that family-based intervention programs focused on improving parents' mental health, marital conflict, and parenting skills may be beneficial in addressing teen dating violence.
Signs of an unhealthy relationship
A resource from the Violence Against Women Research Consortium funded by NIJ explores what teenagers need to know if they are experiencing harm, causing harm, or want to help a friend experiencing dating violence. A second resource from the Consortium discusses what educators and service providers need to consider in situations involving teen dating violence.
Signs of teen dating violence can include:
- Telling a partner who they can or cannot hang out with or follow on social media
- Looking through messages on a partners' phone without permission
- Inconsistent school attendance
- Sudden request to change a class schedule or lunch hour
- Constant worrying about making a partner angry
- Joking about a partner's violent behavior or temper
With support from the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), the love is respect website makes vital resources accessible to teens experiencing dating violence, including preventing abusive relationships and promoting awareness of healthy dating relationships. The site offers a 24-hour helpline for teens, young adults, and their families.