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.
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. The 2013 national Youth Risk Behavior 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.
*Vagi, K. J., Olsen, E. O., Basile, K. C., & Vivolo-Kantor, A. M. (2015). Teen dating violence (physical and sexual) among US high school students: Findings from the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. JAMA Pediatrics, 169, 474-482.
Teen Dating Violence Prevention Infographic
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.
Communicating 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:
- Understanding Teen Dating Violence Fact Sheet [PDF 187KB]
- Physical Dating Violence Among High School Students—United States, 2003
Additional CDC Resources
- CDC TV’s Break the Silence: Stop the Violence
In this video, parents talk with teens about developing healthy, respectful relationships before they start dating.
Dating Matters: Understanding Teen Dating Violence Prevention
This 60-minute, interactive training is designed to help educators, youth-serving organizations, and others working with teens understand the risk factors and warning signs associated with teen dating violence.
Dating Matters: Strategies to Promote Healthy Teen Relationships
CDC’s new teen dating violence prevention initiative seeks to reduce dating violence and increase healthy relationships in high-risk urban communities through comprehensive, multisector prevention.
Division of Adolescent and School Health
This CDC Division promotes the health and well-being of children and adolescents to enable them to become healthy and productive adults.
Preventing Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence: Program Activities Guide [PDF 8.37MB]
This guide describes CDC’s public health activities and research related to intimate partner and sexual violence.
Additional Federal Resources
- Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women Office
- One Department: Overview of HHS Activities on Violence Against Women
- Office for Victims of Crime
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
- National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
- National Sexual Assault Hotline
- National Sexual Assault Online Hotline
- National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women
- The National Sexual Violence Resource Center