Adolescents are involved in domestic violence not only as witnesses to abuse between their parents/caregivers but also as individuals who may themselves be involved in abusive relationships. Data suggests that adolescents are at higher risk of being involved in an abusive relationship than are adults (American Bar Association, 2006). Females 16 to 24 are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than are females in any other age group. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents are just as likely to experience dating violence as are their heterosexual peers (Halpern, Young, Waller, Martin, & Kupper).
Surveys conducted with adolescents demonstrate that they hold attitudes that normalize abusive or controlling relationships. For example, many teenagers think that jealousy, possessiveness, and violence are signs that their partner loves them; and about half of high school girls and three-quarters of high school boys believe that forced sex is acceptable in some circumstances (Michigan State University, n.d.; Jackson, Cram, & Seymour, 2000). Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend had threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup (Liz Claiborne Inc., 2005).
Teen dating violence is associated with higher levels of substance abuse, violence, and victimization, as well as with lower achievement in school. Victims of dating violence display a strong, consistent pattern of exposure to and participation in a broad range of high-risk behaviors including unhealthy weight control, sexual risk behavior, and suicidal ideation (Silverman, Raj, Mucci, & Hathaway, 2001).
Generally, parents are uninformed about the risk of dating violence for their adolescent children, and most parents have not talked to their teenage or young adult children about dating violence (American Bar Association, 2006). Teens rarely report dating violence, possibly because they think it is a normal part of a relationship.
Resources for Teens
For information on dating violence: