Research Roundup: Dating Abuse and Bullying are Related Problems, Online and in Person

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A young man and young woman using smart phones.

Bullying and dating violence are two issues of big concern for teens. Recent studies have responded by looking into connections between the two, asking whether those who perpetrate or fall victim to one also perpetrate or fall victim to the other.

How does bullying relate to teen dating violence?

Katrina J. Debnam, Sarah L. Johnson and Catherine P. Bradshaw of Johns Hopkins University wanted to know how bullying and teen dating violence were related. To find out, they administered a voluntary Web-based survey to 27,074 high-school students in Maryland. Young people answered questions about bullying victimization, dating violence and school safety.

Of the young people surveyed, 23 percent reported having been bullied in the past year. Twenty-two percent felt that physical dating violence was a problem at their schools, and over 23 percent felt that emotional dating violence was a problem.

Demographics such as age, sex, race and bullying experience strongly influenced concerns about physical dating violence. For example, boys and older students were more likely than others to say physical dating violence was a problem at their schools. Male, older and non-black students were more likely than others to perceive emotional dating violence as a problem in their schools. When young people felt either kind of dating violence was a problem, they were also likely to give their school a low safety rating.

The researchers say their findings point to a need for combining programs that aim to prevent dating violence and bullying, rather than treating the two as separate issues.

How do physical and cyber dating violence relate to bullying among teens?

Researchers Jennifer Yahner, Meredith Dank, Janine M. Zweig, and Pamela Lachman of The Urban Institute wondered how often physical and cyber dating violence occurred with bullying. To find out, they surveyed 5,647 young people in grades 7 to 12 at ten schools in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

(We discussed an earlier article on the same study in 2013.)

Yahner, Dank, Zweig and Lachman discovered that a little over 25 percent reported acting violently against a dating partner, and 41 percent reported being the victim of dating violence. Meanwhile, 43 percent reported being a bully, and 57 percent reported being bullied. About 1 in 6 young people surveyed said they had experienced cyber dating abuse--being abused online or via cell phone by a dating partner. The same share reported being bullied online or via cell phone. One in 12 reported committing cyber-dating abuse or cyber-bullying.

Young people who reported perpetrating any type of bullying—whether physical, psychological or cyber—were about twice as likely also to report abusing a dating partner. Those who had been bullied were about 1.5 times likely to also report being victims of dating violence. The researchers learned that about a third of the young people surveyed were victims of both dating violence and bullying. They also learned that many youth who experience dating violence or bullying also inflict it on others. Yahner, Dank, Zweig and Lachman note that cyber bullying, either on the giving or receiving end, makes it twice as likely that the same person will experience dating violence in the same way.

Read the Abstracts

Examining the Association Between Bullying and Adolescent Concerns About Teen Dating Violence” (abstract). Katrina J. Debnam, Sarah L. Johnson and Catherine P. Bradshaw. Journal of School Health, Vol. 84, No. 7 (July 2014).

The Co-Occurence of Physical and Cyber Dating Violence and Bullying Among Teens” (abstract). Jennifer Yahner, Meredith Dank, Janine M. Zweig and Pamela Lachman. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. (July 18, 2014)

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children & Families.

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