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Teen Dating Violence: A Closer Look at Adolescent Romantic Relationships

NCJ Number
Date Published
Carrie Mulford, Ph.D., Peggy C. Giordano, Ph.D.
This article examines research sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in order to present a gender-based analysis of teen dating violence with a developmental perspective, with attention to how adult and adolescent romantic relationships differ.
Findings from three studies show that frequently there is mutual physical aggression by girls and boys in romantic relationships; however, regarding motivations for using violence and the consequences for victims of teen dating violence, there are significant differences between the sexes. Although both boys and girls report that anger is the primary motivating factor for using violence, girls also commonly report self-defense as a motivating factor; and boys commonly cite the need to exert control. Boys are also more likely to react with laughter when their partner is physically aggressive. Girls, on the other hand, are more likely than boys to suffer long-term negative behavioral and health consequences, including suicide attempts, depression, cigarette smoking, and marijuana use. One difference between adolescent and adult relationships is the absence of elements traditionally associated with greater male power in adult relationships. Adolescent girls are not typically dependent on romantic partners for financial stability, and they are less likely to have children to support and protect. Adults who perpetrate violence against family members often view themselves as powerless in their relationships. This dynamic has yet to be adequately explored among teen dating partners. Other factors that are distinctive in teen romantic relationships are inexperience in communicating and relating in romantic relationships and the influence that peers exert on behaviors and attitudes. The findings on teen dating violence suggest interventions that provide services and programming for both boys and girls. Interventions must also distinguish between severe forms of violence and more common abuse. 29 notes
Date Created: October 28, 2008