Two-Thirds of Teen Dating Violence Victims Have Witnessed Family Violence

Family members, and parents in particular, are supposed to be role models for their kids. And they are, according to a new study led by Sherry Hamby of the Department of Psychology at Sewanee, the University of the South in Tennessee. In her recent study, Hamby found that two out of every three adolescents who experience teen dating violence (TDV) have witnessed physical violence among family members. Most of the time, the violence occurred during custodial interference. Sadly, this pattern of abuse is one that is often repeated not just by the children, but for generations to come. TDV is a disturbing problem among American youth. But adolescents are also at risk for other forms of victimization and violence as they develop more independence and are not under the constant supervision of their parents. In an effort to find out if teens who experience TDV also struggle with other abuse or victimization, Hamby analyzed data from over 1,600 teenagers who ranged in age from 12 to 17 years old. The children were part of a larger study, the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV).

Hamby discovered some alarming statistics. First, nearly twice as many boys reported TDV than girls. However, the girls that did report TDV expressed significantly higher levels of fear and reported more injuries from the TDV than the boys (36.4% compared to 12.3%). Other startling findings revealed that the entire sample of the children who had reported TDV had survived at least one form of prior abuse. One in four had been the victim of unwanted sexual exposure, or had been raped, with 50% of those reporting being a victim of statutory rape. The majority of the teens with TDV reported having been mistreated as a child, and over 40% of the maltreatment included physical abuse. Internet victimization was also reported by some of the TDV survivors. And as mentioned before, the highest risk factor TDV was witnessing physical custodial interference. Hamby hopes these findings bring attention to the conditions that influence the epidemic of teen dating violence in our nation. She added, “More attention to the interrelatedness of TDV with other victimization experiences is a promising avenue to reducing this form of violence and helping adolescents navigate the developmental tasks of learning to develop healthy romantic relationships.”

Hamby, S., Finkelhor, D., Turner, H. (2012, February 13). Teen Dating Violence: Co-Occurrence With Other Victimizations in the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV). Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027191

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  • erica bell

    erica bell

    February 23rd, 2012 at 5:21 AM

    I guess that teens like adults pretty much emulate what they have seen all their lives and are destined to follow in the footsteps of those they have grown up around. The question becomes though how do you break this cycle?

  • Ross


    February 23rd, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    I would be very upset if I thought that my own behavior caused my own child to go down the wrong path. I wonder how many of these homes where kids are seeing this kind of harsh stuff are feeling that same way? I would be willing to cast a bet that very few of them even take the time to care. If they did then they would shape up and stop giving their kids all of this food for thought.

  • Bob Hewitt

    Bob Hewitt

    February 24th, 2012 at 8:16 PM

    Wait,the title says victims have been exposed to family violence in the past.Does it not mean that once a victim always remains one and not that the victim re enacts what he or she saw at home?

  • BethAnn


    February 25th, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    The number says 2/3 but I am almost sure that the real number is probably way higher. Most are not willing to admit the reality of what they see at home.

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