Relationship violence has been the focus of much research over the past several decades. Different types of relationships, including married couples, cohabitating partners, casual partners, and parenting relationships, have been studied. Understanding the prevalence and nature of intimate partner violence is critical to its prevention. Violence, however, does not occur only in adult relationships. A number of adolescents experience teen dating violence (TDV) as well. Getting a better idea of the types of TDV that occur, and who is most at risk, could help clinicians design interventions that help young people avoid the future negative outcomes of such patterns. To this end, Sherry Hamby of the Department of Psychology at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, recently conducted a study involving 1,680 teens from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence.
The teens ranged in age from 12 to 17 and were interviewed by telephone. Hamby looked at rates of emotional, sexual and physical violence, victimization and gender, and found that although the female participants expressed more fear resulting from violence, the males reported more victimization. The results showed that females reported sexual or physical violence rates as high as 6.3%, while the males reported rates reaching 8.6%. In fact, almost 8% of the males reported being victims of physical violence, while only 4.5% percent of females did. However, when Hamby looked at TDV that resulted in fear, she found that the girls experienced almost twice as much fear-inducing TDV as the boys.
The findings of this study were based on single reports and did not include follow-up data. Also, Hamby points out that some of the youths may have been unwilling to report the true level of TDV, which could influence the results. She suggests that future research address these short-comings and explore other types of abuse, including emotional abuse. Future efforts also could examine factors that may contribute to TDV, including drug and alcohol use. Despite these limitations, Hamby believes the findings provide in-depth information with respect to the varying nature of TDV and victimization that could help clinicians treating teens. “For youth, though, perhaps the most important implications pertain to prevention, as interrupting these patterns now may help avoid a cascade of adverse outcomes,” Hamby said.
Hamby, S., Turner, H. (2012). Measuring teen dating violence in males and females: Insights from the national survey of children’s exposure to violence. Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029706
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