New Study Explores Gender Differences in Teen Dating Violence

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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  • Brantley

    September 18th, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    If we don’t stop the violence that these kids are committing against one another when they are young, think about how much more we will be facing when they get older. For most people the actions that we learn when we are younger only tend to be more ingrained with us as we get older. With that being said, you have to know that if teens are already being part of violent and abusive relationships at this age then you know that this is only going to continue to be the pattern of behavior for them as they get older. Can’t we figure out a way to stop the violence now so that this does not have to become what defines them and follows them around in every adult relationship that they seek to have?

  • michele huff

    September 18th, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Disturbing trend that relationship violence is beginning so young

  • Grayson

    September 19th, 2012 at 4:04 AM

    I have seen a lot of girls who, even at this early age, equate violence against them with love. They think that the only reason someone would treat them like this is because they love them so much, and I think that some of them even like that element of jealousy and danger that they feel when the botfriend exhibits this kind of violence toward them. I further feel that many gorls this age would have a very hard time talking to a parent about this because they do not want to get the boyfriend in trouble.

  • Howard

    September 19th, 2012 at 5:34 AM

    I think if such a survey is conducted online where there is more privacy than a telephone the results would be more accurate.And I am glad to see that the truth about boys feeling victimized is showing in the results here.The general perception is that girls are the victims but there is just so much victimization and emotional violence against boys,I am sure nobody will deny this!

  • Kathleen

    September 19th, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    Are you finding that more and more girls are acting out this way too toward their boyfriends?
    Have they too become so emboldened that they now feel like they can get what they want through violence like this?


    September 19th, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    After reading this I am left wondering what will happens to these teens once they are adults.If they can be abusive in relationships at such a young age then the violence may further increase with age and they may become major criminals within their relationship in their adult lives! Not only would that be horrible for them but also puts innocent partners at risk and that is something we just cannot afford!

  • Tim

    September 19th, 2012 at 11:45 PM

    Never thought kids as young as 12-17 indulge in dating violence in such high numbers..I think they are just picking things from what they see in adults around them..There is less tolerance and more aggression all over now and this seems to plague the young people too.

  • LuLu

    September 20th, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    It makes me very sad to think that there are kids from a evry young age who think so little of themselves that they would allow someone else to treat them this way and do nothing to stop this. I suppose that with any cycle of abuse the damage is typically going to begin accruing when the victim is very young, otherwise they would not so easily allow this to become a part of their lives when they become older. We not only have to provide more education to our young people about what they should do if they find themselves in an abusive situation, but we also have to offer them ways to improve their confidence levels and show them how to depend on themselves.

  • rick

    September 20th, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    anyone else surprised to see that boys were more victimized than girls although the fear level is higher in girls?now which one really is the weaker sex?? *confused*

    any reasons for the boys being more victimized?is it the laws that lean towards girls and hence they get away with it easy?

  • Jamie r

    September 20th, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    Why no follow up? Seems like this would be of importance to researchers and parents of these kids.

  • C Rushing

    September 24th, 2012 at 4:37 AM

    Do we all honestly believe that more boys are reporting being victims of this than felmales are? Okay, Let me rephrase- they are reporting this more often but do we really believe that this is true? I just don’t see how this is happeening! Have girls of this age become so violent that now more of them are beating up on their boyfriends than the opposite? I have a pretty hard time believing this, and surely I am not the only one who sees this! I have seen teenage boys completely manipulate and rule over these young girls, who are so afraid to say or do anything back because they are afriad they will get dumped! Are our teen boys becoming this same kind of victim too?

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