Cumulative Stress Increases Teen Dating Violence

A large number of teens will experience some form of violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Rates of Teen Dating Violence (TDV) have risen dramatically in recent years, and efforts to prevent it have provided mixed results. The factors that predict TDV must be fully understood in order for interventions to be effective. In an attempt to better identify what factors predict TDV, David Rosenfield of the Southern Methodist University’s Department of Psychology in Dallas, Texas, recently led a study that looked at history of TDV and risk for TDV in a sample of 92 teens involved in the juvenile justice system. The teens were all involved in a romantic relationship and were assessed for levels of aggression, violence and antisocial behavior. Rosenfield followed the teens for a total 12 weeks and interviewed them every 2 weeks. The participants were asked about stressful events in the prior two weeks and also asked to report any acts of violence that they had committed against their partners.

Rosenfield found that the teens were more likely to commit TDV if they had recently experienced stress. However, the cumulative effects of stress had a significant effect on TDV whereas long-term stress seemed to elevate the likelihood of TDV, even in the absence of recent TDV. The participants with a history of TDV and cumulative stress had the highest rates of TDV during the study period.

Rosenfield believes that teens under chronic stress may have decreased emotional regulation as a result, and may be quicker to react with anger and aggression than those who do not experience as much stress. This effect was particularly strong in the male participants, although further research needs to be done to clarify why this occurred. Rosenfield noted that even though the boys demonstrated more aggression than the girls, all teens who have a history of stress and TDV should be targeted for interventions. He added, “At-risk teens may benefit from programs designed to reduce stress and mitigate stress reactivity.” Ultimately, teaching teens how to cope with stress in adaptive and non-violent ways could decrease the overall rates of TDV.

Rosenfield, D., Jouriles, E. N., Mueller, V., and McDonald, R. (2012). When at-risk teens are violent toward romantic partners: The role of common stressors. Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031029

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  • RD


    January 2nd, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    Stress may be a reason..but that’s no way of dealing wih is only going to get you into more trouble..these young people need to be taught better ways of coping with stress.Maybe if they had real hobbies (not social networking sites) they could devote their time and energy into better things!

  • HurtHeart


    January 3rd, 2013 at 3:46 AM

    Its not easy for adolescent to manage their emotions or to even express them in an appropriate manner.While adult partner violence is spoken of all the time,violence in adolescent partners is barely ever reported.

    The main reason for such violence is that they are not really matured enough in the first place.A relationship at that stage does no good and often the partners continue to take such violence and abuse and still remain with the perpetrator.I have seen enough such examples back in school.

  • frances


    January 3rd, 2013 at 3:58 AM

    What makes me the most worried about this is that more and more of our teens are living in chronic stressful situations every day, nothing like it was when I was growing up.

    I had not a care in the world when I was this age- all I worried about were a few of my friends and whether I had the right outfit on for the day. But today- so not true. Our kids today are having to worry about their families, bullying, doing well in school, a whole host of things that I guess I never really thought about too much. Not in the extreme manner that they are today. So it is easy to see how in an emotionally charges relstionship these thoughts could be so overwhelming and naturally lend themselves to greater teen violence against one another.

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