Teen Dating Violence

By: Mary B. Hammock, MSN, CPNP

Dating is an important part of growth and development for teenagers. It molds emotional health, identity and self-worth and helps to prepare a teen for future relationships. Healthy relationships can have a positive impact on development and unhealthy relationships can negatively impact a teen’s entire future. Learning to communicate effectively, appropriately managing uncomfortable feelings, such as jealously or anger, and treating others with respect are learned tools of healthy relationships. Dating violence is a widespread problem crossing the boundaries of age, gender, ethnicity and financial status. Research indicates one of 3 teens experiences dating violence and two of every three victims tell no one it has occurred. Many fail to report abuse due to embarrassment, fear, and the notion that the violence will never occur again. Dating violence has long-term and short-term effects on its victims. Knowing what to look for and early intervention can help safeguard your teen.

What is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen dating violence is defined as the physical (pinching, hitting, shoving, slapping, or kicking), sexual (forcing a sexual act without consent – can be physical or nonphysical through threatening to spread rumors or stop dating the partner), psychological or emotional (harming his or her sense of self-worth via bullying, shaming, intentionally embarrassing or other such behaviors) violence within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner. Youth who experience teen dating violence are more likely to experience dating violence during college and later. Being the victim of dating violence often leads to symptoms of depression and anxiety and potentially could result in abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and/or drugs. Antisocial behaviors, including avoiding typical activities, skipping school, and isolating oneself with or without the dating partner, and thoughts of suicide are much more common among victims of dating violence.

Ramifications of Teen Dating Violence

Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications by placing the victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence. While researchers are still trying to define the problem and how big the problem is, it is estimated that half of the youth who have been victims of dating violence attempt suicide, as depression is a common reality for them. It has been determined that teen girls who have been sexually or physically abused are six times more likely to get pregnant and twice as likely to have recurrent sexually transmitted diseases from high risk sexual behavior.

How to Stop Dating Violence

The ultimate goal is to stop dating violence before it begins. Again, it is vital to lead by example and promote healthy relationships. Help your teen work through case scenarios to strengthen their self-worth. This will also train him or her arming him or her with the ability to appropriately and rapidly respond in an unhealthy relationship. Communicate that you are your child’s most staunch defender; that no matter the circumstances you will do your very best to protect him or her, as long as there is an open dialogue between the two of you.

As it turns out, getting a little one to sleep through the night and to use the potty may have been easier parenting jobs than protecting teens from themselves and others. While they search for the own identity, it is important that we give them enough space to explore but stay close enough to continue to protect and guide them. Healthy Steps Pediatrics is helping to grow healthy children one step at a time. Call today if you need teen guidance or any other pediatric need. 678-384-3480.