Research Roundup: What Else Happens to Young People Who Experience Dating Violence?

Photograph of a young person wearing a hooded jacket.

Everyone knows that dating violence harms young people. But which negative experiences are most likely to go hand-in-hand with dating violence? Knowing what else youth in harmful relationships experience might help youth service providers stop dating violence before it starts.

Long-term Effects

Two recent longitudinal studies, in which researchers track a cohort of young people over time, look at what other risk factors tend to come with the package when youth experience dating violence, and what negative impacts teen dating violence has on young people's overall health.

The first, by researchers from Northwestern University, used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, or Add Health, the largest and most comprehensive nationally representative survey of adolescents, to study the links between various relationship problems during the teen years and health in young adulthood. They looked at intimate partner violence along with being accepted by one’s peers, having other unhealthy relationships with parents or peers, and experiencing the death or loss of a close friend or relative. The researchers found that intimate partner violence was the factor most likely to be associated with risky behaviors like smoking and binge drinking. Young people who had more than one of the negative experiences studied, including dating violence, were less likely to be physically healthy. Young people who experienced at least four risk factors were more than twice as likely to have reduced physical and mental health.

The second study, conducted by researchers from Cornell University, also using data from Add Health, looked at the differences between boys and girls who have been victims of dating violence. The researchers found that compared to those who did not report teen dating abuse, both young men and women who had been abused by a partner were more likely to report having suicidal thoughts and later involvement in adult dating violence. Young men also reported feeling withdrawn or isolated, and using marijuana. Young women with these experiences tended to report binge drinking, feeling depressed and smoking.

Connection to Suicidal Thoughts

A third study, by researchers from the University of North Texas, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati, and PrairieView A&M University used data from the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a national school-based survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, to learn more about the links between dating violence and suicidal thoughts. Youth who reported relationship violence were more than twice as likely to consider or attempt suicide as those who did not. According to this study, only sexual assault and heroin use were more likely than dating violence to be associated with a young person having a suicide plan.

The researchers studying the YRBS data suggest that schools are in a position to spot potentially harmful behavior, and should take on a more active role to engage youth on topics of relationship violence and coping strategies. Researchers from the Cornell study emphasized the need to screen teens for dating violence. Researchers from all three studies agreed that while relationship violence is clearly related to poor health and suicide in young people, further research is needed to determine cause and effect.

Read the Articles

Adverse Adolescent Relationship Histories and Young Adult Health: Cumulative Effects of Loneliness, Low Parental Support, Relationship Instability, Intimate Partner Violence, and Loss (abstract). Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 49, No. 3, September 2011.

Longitudinal Associations Between Teen Dating Violence Victimization and Adverse Health Outcomes (abstract). Pediatrics, Vol. 131, No. 1, January 2013.

The Relationship Between Dating Violence and Suicidal Behaviors in a National Sample of Adolescents (abstract). Violence and Victims, Vol. 27, No. 4, 2012.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB, or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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