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Prevalence of Teen Dating Violence

Date Published
December 5, 2011

Estimates of teen dating violence prevalence vary widely, because studies define and measure violence differently over different periods of time for different populations. On this page, find estimates on prevalence from:

Nationally Representative Surveys

Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a nationally representative annual survey of youth in grades 9 to 12, found that, of those students who dated someone in the last 12 months, approximately one in 10 reported being a victim of physical violence from a romantic partner during that year.[1]

The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, analyzing a nationally representative sample of adolescents in grades 7 to 12 who were then followed over time, showed that approximately 30 percent of people ages 12 to 21 in heterosexual relationships reported experiencing psychological abuse in the past 18 months; 20 percent of youth in same-sex relationships reported experiencing the same type of abuse.[2][3]

About 10 percent of students in the Youth Risk Behavior Study who had dated someone in the last 12 months reported that they had been kissed, touched or physically forced to have sexual intercourse against their will by a dating partner during that year.[4]

To date, there are no nationally representative data on perpetration of dating violence.

Study of Middle and High Schools in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania

One NIJ-funded study examined the prevalence of dating violence among 5,647 teens (51.8 percent female, 74.6 percent Caucasian) from 10 middle schools and high schools (representing grades 7-12) throughout New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Findings indicated that within the past year:

  • 18.0 percent of respondents reported experiencing cyber dating abuse (e.g., "my partner used my social networking account without permission" or "my partner sent texts/emails to engage in sexual acts I did not want").
  • 20.7 percent experienced physical dating violence (e.g., reporting that a partner "pushed" or "kicked" the respondent).
  • 32.6 percent experienced psychological dating abuse (e.g., "my partner threatened to hurt me" or "my partner would not let me do things with other people").
  • 9.0 percent experienced sexual coercion (e.g., "my partner pressured me to have sex when [he or she] knew I didn't want to").

The study also specifically examined dating violence rates among teens who had dated within the past year (66 percent of total teens; n = 3,745). The following percentages of dating teens reported experiencing forms of abuse:

  • Cyber dating abuse: 26.3 percent
  • Physical dating violence: 29.9 percent
  • Psychological dating abuse: 47.2 percent
  • Sexual coercion: 13.0 percent

Learn more from:

Longitudinal Study of Students in the Midwest

An NIJ-funded longitudinal study of 1,162 students in the Midwest examined the prevalence of several kinds of abuse that male and female middle and high school students experienced and perpetrated in teen dating relationships.

Physical violence. About one-third of girls and boys (35 percent and 36 percent, respectively) reported experiencing physical violence in a teen dating relationship. More girls reported perpetrating physical dating violence than boys (34 percent vs. 17 percent).

Verbal emotional abuse. Verbal emotional abuse was the most common form of abuse in teen dating relationships for both girls and boys: 73 percent of girls and 66 percent of boys reported experiencing at least one instance of verbal abuse in a dating relationship in high school. In addition, 64 percent of girls and 45 percent of boys reported perpetrating verbal emotional abuse toward a dating partner. 

Sexual coercion. Nearly one in four girls and one in seven boys reported being victims of sexual coercion in a teen dating relationship.

Read an abstract and access the final report, Bullying, Sexual, and Dating Violence Trajectories From Early to Late Adolescence.

Study of Dating Violence Among Latino Adolescents

NIJ-funded research has also examined the prevalence of dating violence among a national sample of Latino adolescents. Phone interviews were conducted with 1,525 Latino teens, ranging in age from 12 to 18, most of whom (76.1 percent) were born in the United States. Respondents reported experiencing the following within the past year:

  • At least one form of dating violence: 19.5 percent
  • Psychological dating violence: 14.8 percent
  • Physical dating violence: 6.6 percent
  • Sexual dating violence: 5.6 percent
  • Stalking: 1.0 percent

Learn more from Dating Violence Among Latino Teenagers.

Date Published: December 5, 2011