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Teen Dating Violence Outcomes and Help-Seeking

Date Published
May 29, 2014

Ideally, teens will seek help when dating violence occurs. Researchers and service providers are working to better understand how many teens seek help, from whom they seek it, and what factors encourage or deter help-seeking after violence or abuse.

An NIJ-funded study of teens from 10 middle schools and high schools throughout New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania examined help-seeking rates among teens. The prevalence of help-seeking among teens who reported at least one form of psychological, physical, sexual or cyber abuse was fairly low: 8.6 percent of all victims, 5.7 percent of male victims and 11.0 percent of female victims.

Female teens were more likely than male teens to seek help. The majority (77.2 percent; 69.2 percent of males and 82.0 percent of females) of those who sought help turned to friends. In addition, about half of the teens (48.5 percent overall; 44.2 percent of males and 50.5 percent of females) sought help from a parent.

In a national study of Latino teens, help-seeking was examined among those who experienced physical or sexual dating violence or stalking:

  • Only 15.6 percent of Latino dating abuse victims sought formal help (e.g., from teachers, counselors, case workers or police). The most common reason given for not seeking formal help was "I didn't think of it."
  • In contrast, 60.7 percent of Latino dating abuse victims sought informal help, most often from friends (42.9 percent) but also from family members (15.5 percent).
  • Male and female victims sought informal help at similar rates (43.6 percent and 41.4 percent, respectively), but Latino female teens (35.5 percent) were more likely than Latino male teens (5.1 percent) to seek formal help.

In addition, the higher the Latino teens scored on a measure of familism (e.g., putting the family above individual interests), the more likely they were to seek formal help.

Overall, results from NIJ-funded studies suggest that many teens never seek help after experiencing dating violence. When they do seek help, they most commonly seek help from their friends. Very few teens seek formal help from an adult service provider.

About This Article

The research described in this article was funded by NIJ award 2010-WG-BX-0003 and 2009-W9-BX-0001 awarded to the Urban Institute and the Pennsylvania State University respectively.

This article is based on the grantee reports "Technology, Teen Dating Violence and Abuse, and Bullying" (pdf 198 pages) and "Dating Violence Among Latino Adolescents (DAVILA) Study" (pdf, 208 pages).

Date Published: May 29, 2014