This study examined the age at which the risk for teen dating violence (TDV) perpetration onset was greatest.
Teen dating violence (TDV) is a serious and prevalent public health problem. TDV is associated with a number of negative health consequences for victims and predicts violence in adult relationships. Thus, efforts should be devoted to the primary prevention of TDV; however, only a few studies have examined when the risk for the first occurrence of TDV is greatest. Continued research in this area would inform the timing of, as well as developmentally appropriate strategies for, TDV primary prevention efforts. Using a panel-based design, the current study involved a sample of racially/ethnically diverse high school students (N = 872; 56 percent female) from the Southwestern United States, who completed self-report surveys on physical and sexual TDV perpetration annually for 6 years (2010 to 2016). Findings indicate that the physical TDV risk of onset was at or before ages 15 to 16 for females and at or before age 18 for males. For sexual TDV perpetration, risk was similar for males and females during adolescence, before uniquely increasing for males, but not females, in emerging adulthood. Findings highlight the need for TDV primary prevention programs to be implemented early in high school, and potentially in middle school. (publisher abstract modified)