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Teen Dating Violence

Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime.  Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name calling, are a "normal" part of a relationship. However, these behaviors can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence.

What is dating violence?

Teen dating violence [PDF 187KB] is defined as the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner. Several different words are used to describe teen dating violence. Below are just a few.

  • Relationship abuse
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Relationship violence
  • Dating abuse
  • Domestic abuse
  • Domestic violence

Dating violence is widespread with serious long-term and short-term effects. Many teens do not report it because they are afraid to tell friends and family. A 2011 CDC nationwide survey found that 23% of females and 14% of males who ever experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.   A 2013 survey found approximately 10% of high school students reported physical victimization and 10% reported sexual victimization from a dating partner in the 12 months before they were surveyed.

What are the consequences of dating violence?

As teens develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by experiences in their relationships. Healthy relationship behaviors can have a positive effect on a teen’s emotional development. Unhealthy, abusive, or violent relationships can have severe consequences and short- and long-term negative effects on a developing teen. Youth who experience dating violence are more likely to experience the following:

  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Engagement in unhealthy behaviors, such as tobacco and drug use, and alcohol
  • Involvement in antisocial behaviors
  • Thoughts about suicide

Additionally, youth who are victims of dating violence in high school are at higher risk for victimization during college.

Why does dating violence happen?

Teens laughingCommunicating with your partner, managing uncomfortable emotions like anger and jealousy, and treating others with respect are a few ways to keep relationships healthy and nonviolent. Teens receive messages about how to behave in relationships from peers, adults in their lives, and the media. All too often these examples suggest that violence in a relationship is normal, but violence is never acceptable. There are reasons why violence occurs.

Violence is related to certain risk factors. Risks of having unhealthy relationships increase for teens who —

  • Believe that dating violence is acceptable
  • Are depressed, anxious, or have other symptoms of trauma
  • Display aggression towards peers or display other aggressive behaviors
  • Use drugs or illegal substances
  • Engage in early sexual activity and have multiple sexual partners
  • Have a friend involved in dating violence
  • Have conflicts with a partner
  • Witness or experience violence in the home

Dating violence can be prevented when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies.

The following resources provide more information on teen dating violence and its prevention:

Publications
Additional CDC Resources
Additional Federal Resources
Hotlines
Resource Centers

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