Fast Facts: Preventing Teen Dating Violence

What is teen dating violence?
teen couple kissing

Teen dating violence (TDV), also called, “dating violence”, is an adverse childhood experience that affects millions of young people in the United States.  Dating violence can take place in person, online, or through technology. It is a type of intimate partner violence that can include the following types of behavior:

  • Physical violence is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.
  • Sexual violence is forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act and or sexual touching when the partner does not consent or is unable to consent or refuse. It also includes non-physical sexual behaviors like posting or sharing sexual pictures of a partner without their consent or sexting someone without their consent.
  • Psychological aggression is the use of verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm a partner mentally or emotionally and exert control over a partner.
  • Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a current or former partner that causes fear or safety concern for an individual victim or someone close to the victim.

Teen dating violence profoundly impacts lifelong health, opportunity, and wellbeing. Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. The good news is violence is preventable, and we can all help young people grow up violence-free.

How big is the problem?

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 serious forms of violence. Many teens do not report unhealthy behaviors because they are afraid to tell family and friends.

Teen dating violence is common. Data from CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2019 indicate that among U.S. high school students who reported dating during the 12 months before the survey:

  • About 1 in 12 experienced physical dating violence.
  • About 1 in 12 experienced sexual dating violence.

Some teens are at greater risk than others. Female students experienced higher rates of physical and sexual dating violence than male students. Students who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) or those who were unsure of their gender identity experienced higher rates of physical and sexual dating violence compared to students who identified as heterosexual.

How big is the problem?

What are the consequences?

Unhealthy, abusive, or violent relationships can have short-and long-term negative effects, including severe consequences, on a developing teen. Youth who are victims of teen dating violence are more likely to:

  • experience depression and anxiety symptoms
  • engage in unhealthy behaviors, like using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol
  • exhibit antisocial behaviors, like lying, theft, bullying, or hitting
  • think about suicide

Violence in an adolescent relationship sets the stage for future relationship problems, including intimate partner violence and sexual violence perpetration and/or victimization throughout life. For example, youth who are victims of dating violence in high school are at higher risk for victimization during college.

How can we prevent teen dating violence?

Supporting healthy, nonviolent relationships could reduce TDV and prevent its harmful, long-lasting effects on individuals, their families, and their communities. During the pre-teen and teen years, it is critical for youth to begin learning skills to create and maintain healthy relationships, including managing feelings and communicating in a healthy way. Research also highlights the need for prevention efforts that address the unique needs of teens who are at greater risk of experiencing teen dating violence.

CDC has developed resources to help communities focus their prevention efforts on what works to address risk and protective factors for violence. CDC’s Dating Matters®: Strategies to Promote Healthy Teen Relationships focuses on 11-14-year-olds and includes multiple prevention components to promote healthy relationships and reduce behaviors that increase the risk of dating violence. Please visit the Dating Matters website to learn more.

CDC also developed Preventing Intimate Partner Violence Across the Lifespan: A Technical Package of Programs, Policies, and Practices pdf icon[4.52 MB, 64 Pages, 508] that describes strategies and approaches based on the best available evidence for preventing intimate partner violence, including teen dating violence. The resource includes multiple strategies that can be used in combination to prevent intimate partner violence and teen dating violence.

How can we stop teen dating violence it before it starts

 

See Intimate Partner Violence Resources for articles, publications, data sources, and prevention resources for Teen Dating Violence.

  1. Breiding MJ, Basile KC, Smith SG, Black MC, Mahendra RR. (2015). Intimate partner violence surveillance: uniform definitions and recommended data elements, version 2.0. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. Basile KC, Clayton HB, DeGue S, Gilford JW, Vagi KJ, Suarez NA, … & Lowry R. (2020). Interpersonal Violence Victimization Among High School Students—Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019. MMWR supplements, 69(1), 28.
  3. Walls NE, Atterberry-Ash B, Kattari SK, Peitzmeier S. et al. (2019). Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, Mental Health, and Bullying as Predictors of Partner Violence in a Representative Sample of Youth. Journal of Adolescent Health; 64(1): 86–92, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.08.011external icon.
  4. Dank M, Lachman P, Zweig JM, and Yahner, J. (2014). Dating Violence Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence; 43(5): 846–857, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-013-9975-8.
  5. Foshee VA, McNaughton Reyes HL, Gottfredson NC, Chang LY, Ennett ST. (2013). A longitudinal examination of psychological, behavioral, academic, and relationship consequences of dating abuse victimization among a primarily rural sample of adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health; 53(6):723-729.
  6. Roberts TA, Klein JD, Fisher S. (2003). Longitudinal effect of intimate partner abuse on high-risk behavior among adolescents. Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine; 157(9):875-881.
  7. Exner-Cortens D, Eckenrode J, Rothman E. (2003). Longitudinal associations between teen dating violence victimization and adverse health outcomes. Pediatrics; 131(1):71-78.
  8. Smith PH, White JW, Holland LJ. (2003). A longitudinal perspective on dating violence among adolescent and college-age women. American Journal of Public Health; 93(7):1104–1109.
  9. Niolon PH, Kearns M, Dills J, Rambo K, Irving S, Armstead T, Gilbert L. (2017). Preventing Intimate Partner Violence Across the Lifespan: A Technical Package of Programs, Policies and Practices. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Page last reviewed: February 28, 2022