Teen dating violence may be risk factor for repeated violence and poor mental and physical health in young adulthood

New research from Cornell University suggests that dating violence experienced as a teenager may increase the likelihood of poor physical and mental health, revictimization and risky drinking and drug use in young adulthood, reports U.S. News & World Report

Researchers collected data from 5,700 adolescents (12- to 18-years-old) who had been in a dating or sexual relationship in the past year, and then interviewed the participants again five years later when they were between the ages of 18 and 25. The surveys were part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, and included students from schools across the United States.

Participants were initially asked about psychological and physical violence, risky sexual behavior and weight control, and assessed for depressive symptoms, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem, anti-social behavior and substance use. As young adults (between the ages 18 and 25), interviewers again inquired about behavioral health issues and, this time, adult intimate partner violence, which only focuses on physical violence.

The researchers found that psychological violence on its own could increase the likelihood for heavy drinking, future partner violence, antisocial behavior, suicidal thoughts and drug use.

“Girls were 44 percent more likely to drink heavily and 87 percent more likely to have partner violence as young adults, whereas boys were more likely to have antisocial behavior, 90 percent more likely to have suicidal thoughts, 34 percent more likely to use marijuana and more than twice as likely to experience partner violence as young adults.”

They also found that combined psychological and physical violence may lead to more long-term effects for girls than boys. 

Based on these findings and the prevalence of teen dating violence, the authors are advocating for screening teens for dating violence and encouraging parents, teachers, counselors and social workers to reach out.

The study will appear in the 2013 print issue of the journal Pediatrics, and can be found online here.

In May 2011, Dr. Linda Toche-Manley, vice president of Polaris, spoke before a federal interagency task force on teen dating violence. She focused on the effectiveness of Polaris’s predictive models to identify risk of revictimization and of the importance of addressing psychological terror, which can be a precursor to post-traumatic stress disorder. Polaris continues to explore the possibility of building an adolescent application based on its outcomes management solution for domestic violence. Send an e-mail to moreinfo@polarishealth.com for further information.