When teen dating turns abusive and violent

May 10, 2013 by Serena Gordon, Healthday Reporter
When teen dating turns abusive and violent
Parents urged to watch for signs of behavior that affects 1 in 10 children.

(HealthDay)—When teens start dating, parents' worries grow—and experts say that dating violence should be on their list of concerns.

"Dating violence happens, and it's more common than we think," said Dr. Yolanda Evans, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the division of at Seattle Children's Hospital. "We need to talk to teens about it."

Nearly 10 percent of teenagers experience some form of violence in their dating relationships, according to the U.S. .

Dating violence encompasses physical, emotional and sexual abuse, the CDC notes. Physical acts include such things as hitting, shoving, pinching and kicking could be threatening a dating partner or harming the person's self-worth by bullying, shaming, name-calling or isolating him or her from friends and family. involves forcing someone into sexual activity that he or she doesn't want to participate in and includes teens can't consent to because they've been drugged.

Beyond the immediate effects of violent relationships, longer-range impacts loom. A study in the January issue of Pediatrics found that teens who had experienced dating violence were more likely to , smoke, have , think about suicide and experience additional than were their peers who'd never experienced dating violence.

Teens who've been abused by their boyfriend or girlfriend are also more likely to do poorly at school, to experiment with drugs and to have an , according to the CDC. Those abused in high school are more apt to be abused in college as well.

Often, though, abusive behavior starts with teasing and name-calling, which teens may see as a normal part of a relationship but which, according to the CDC, can lead to more serious violence, such as hitting or rape.

Nancy Diaz, a consultant who has provided services to Outreach in New York City, said that when she explains verbal abuse to teens, many think it's just normal conversation. Often their own mothers, who may be young, have spoken to them in just that way. "It's the cycle of violence," Diaz said.

If a teen girl slaps a teen boy, the boy often says it's not abuse because it doesn't hurt, but Diaz explains that it is. She said that some gangs initiate girls by forcing them to have sex with all of the gang's members. "That's rape, but the girls don't think of it as rape," Diaz said.

For parents, protection starts with knowing the person their teen is dating. "Invite them in, or offer to drive them somewhere," Evans said. "Just make sure you know who they're connecting with."

Discovering that abuse is occurring can be hard, but "watch out for social isolation, withdrawal from friends and activities," Evans said. "Look for sores, bruises or scratches, and check out what they're doing on social media like Facebook and Tumblr."

Diaz said that a girl's sudden change in the way she dresses also could be a sign of abuse. She might be covering hickeys, or her boyfriend might want her to dress differently so that she doesn't attract other boys.

"Are they home earlier? Constantly texting?" Diaz asked. "I've heard of a boyfriend who wanted his girlfriend to have the webcam on her computer on all the time so he could see what she was doing. That's stalking."

Both experts recommend being upfront with your kids, but not confrontational. "Say, 'I've noticed that you're home a lot more. How is John treating you?'" suggested Diaz. "Have a conversation and try not to judge. Let your teen know that they can come and talk to you no matter what."

And Evans stressed the importance of keeping communication lines open. "The more you talk to your teen and are open with them, they'll know it's OK to come to you," she said. "Tell them if they ever want to talk, you're always there for them. And, let them know if they want to talk to other adults in their life, that's OK, too."

Whether a teen's school can help, however, may not be certain. Researchers reported in the August issue of Pediatrics that more than 80 percent of U.S. schools had no protocol for helping teens who were experiencing dating violence. Still, 61 percent of school counselors said that had approached them for advice about .

Explore further: Many teens afraid to intervene in sexual assault, survey finds

More information: Break the Cycle has more about teen dating violence.

For more on teen dating violence, read about one young woman's experiences in a same-sex relationship.

Related Stories

Many teens afraid to intervene in sexual assault, survey finds

March 13, 2013
(HealthDay)—More than half of all teens and young adults in the United States know a victim of dating violence or sexual assault, according to a new national survey.

U.S. high schools lax in preventing dating abuse: study

July 9, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Although dating violence is a recognized problem for U.S. teens, a majority of high school counselors say their school provides no training or guidelines for dealing with abusive romantic relationships, a ...

Study focuses on dating violence in Texas public schools

March 7, 2013
Texas was the first state in the nation to mandate school policies on dating violence, but it still has some work to do in protecting victims and addressing consequences for the crime, according to a study by the Crime Victims' ...

Dating violence in teen years can have lasting impact

December 10, 2012
(HealthDay)—Teenagers who experience dating violence could be more likely to get involved in violent relationships and have health problems as young adults, a new study suggests.

Know a teen hurt by a date? Someone else has been hurting them too, research finds

February 13, 2012
Teen victims of dating violence are overwhelmingly more likely to have been victims of other forms of violence, such as sexual violence and child abuse, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire Crimes ...

Severe abuse at home linked to dating violence

January 22, 2013
Young urban black women who are exposed to severe abuse within their families are much more likely to be victims of dating violence, according to a study led by a Michigan State University researcher.

Recommended for you

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

Blood of SIDS infants contains high levels of serotonin

July 3, 2017
Blood samples from infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had high levels of serotonin, a chemical that carries signals along and between nerves, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes ...

Is your child's 'penicillin allergy' real?

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many children suspected of being allergic to the inexpensive, first-line antibiotic penicillin actually aren't, new research indicates.

Probiotic supplements failed to prevent babies' infections

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Probiotic supplements may not protect babies from catching colds or stomach bugs in day care, a new clinical trial suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.