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Teen Dating Prevention

One in four teens will sustain physical, psychological, or sexual abuse by dating partners, with 10% to 15% becoming victims of severe physical violence. Many victims of dating violence (DV) experience devastating consequences, including acute and chronic mental and physical health problems, suicidality, delinquency, risky sexual behavior, substance abuse, and poor school performance. Moreover, perpetrators of teen DV are at increased risk for continuing intimate partner violence in adulthood, and victims are at risk for future victimization and perpetration.

While any dating teen can experience DV, certain individual, family, and community characteristics increase the likelihood of being in a violent relationship, including 1) having been abused as a child or witnessing violence in their family or neighborhood; 2) participating in other risky behaviors, such as drug or alcohol use, early sexual debut, or general delinquency; and 3) psychological health problems. We also know that some factors protect against DV, such as having pro-social models, having skills needed to effectively resolve conflicts, and having skills to adaptively manage stressful situations.

Although dating violence is a pervasive problem, it is largely preventable. For example, one evidence-based program being implemented throughout the Houston area, Fourth R, integrates the promotion of healthy relationship skills and prevention of DV into existing school curricula. Fourth R components are aligned with state and federal curriculum requirements in health, thus minimizing time and financial burdens placed upon resource-strapped schools. It includes both classroom activities and school-level components in which teachers receive specialized training on teaching about healthy relationships and students form “safe school committees.” Ongoing research has demonstrated that Fourth R reduces dating violence, substance use, and other risky behaviors.

Signs of a healthy relationship include:

  1. Treating each other with respect, including being respectful of one another’s time and decisions.
  2. Sharing common interests, being happy when together, and not feeling forced to do anything you don’t want to do.
  3. Resolving disagreements peacefully and without putting the other person down.

Signs of an unhealthy relationship include:

  1. Blaming you or making you feel guilty when bad things happen
  2. Smothering you or not wanting you to spend time with other people
  3. Not honoring your privacy; this may include wanting your phone password and searching through your pictures or texts
  4. Excessive jealousy
  5. Trying to change you

Signs of a violent relationship include:

  1. Yelling at, making fun of, ridiculing, or trying to control you
  2. Threatening to harm you, people close to you, pets, property or themselves
  3. Any physical aggression (for example, hits, kicks, slaps, pushes, pulls hair)
  4. Forcing you into unwanted sexual situations or acts

For more information, please visit www.loveisrespect.org or you can call the teen dating violence hotline (open 24/7/365) at 866.331.9474

Posted by Dr. Jeff Temple on 9 Feb 2017

About the author

Associate Professor and Director of Behavioral Health and Research, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UTMB Health

His research focuses on adolescent health, with a particular emphasis on promoting healthy relationships and preventing dating violence. Dr. Temple is on the Board of the Texas Psychological Association and is the Vice President of the Galveston Independent School District board of trustees.