Research Roundup: What Do We Know About Hispanic Youth and Teen Dating Violence?

A Latina teen.

More and more, researchers who study violence among romantic partners are starting to examine the unique issues faced by teens in violent relationships. In much of that work, researchers have focused on white and African American teens. Because Hispanic children and youth make up 17 percent of the U.S. population under age 18, new research is taking a closer look at this group of young people. Three recent articles investigate important questions about dating violence and Hispanic teens.

How Many Hispanic Teens Are Victims?

The groundbreaking Dating Violence Among Latino Adolescents, or DAVILA, study used a national sample of Latino adolescents to determine their experiences as victims of violence in dating relationships, including physical, sexual, and psychological abuse and stalking. Released in 2013, the study surveyed more than 1,500 Hispanic 12- to 18-year-olds and their caregivers by phone, in either English or Spanish, between September 2011 and February 2012.

DAVILA investigators Chiara Sabina, Carlos A. Cuevas and Kristin A. Bell use data from their study to pinpoint the rates of victimization among Hispanic teens. But they also wanted to see how often Hispanic teens are victims of multiple types of dating violence, or dating violence that overlaps with other experiences of violence.

Nearly 1 in 5 of youth surveyed had been a victim of dating violence. Psychological abuse happened most frequently, with nearly 15 percent of young people experiencing it. Boys were more likely than girls to have experienced every form of dating violence, except stalking. Ten percent of youth had gone through multiple forms of dating violence, or been the victim of dating violence and violence by someone who was not their romantic partner.

How Often Do Hispanic Teens Seek Help for Dating Violence?

In general, research has found that many teens in violent relationships are unlikely to look for help, either from friends or family or from a professional. When they do seek help, they are most likely to go to friends. Sabina and Cuevas, along with researcher Kristin A. Bell, found similar patterns in their DAVILA data.

Only about 15 percent of teen victims looked for help from school personnel, social services, police, the legal system, or a health care professional. About 60 percent of teens mentioned the dating violence they experienced to a friend, parent, sibling, relative or neighbor—the vast majority of those mentions (42 percent of all respondents) were to friends. Boys were less likely than girls to tell someone about being the victim of dating violence. Privacy was a major reason young people didn’t ask for help.

What Works To Prevent Dating Violence Among Hispanic Teens?

A meta-analysis of research on school-based violence prevention programs found that such programs were much more effective at schools with a majority of white students than at schools where a majority of students were Hispanic. Researchers Krithika Malhotra, Rosa M. Guarda-Gonzalez and Emma M. Mitchell  wondered if the same would hold true for programs meant to prevent teen dating violence.

They reviewed 18 studies of school-based teen dating violence prevention programs. Three of the studies enrolled a majority of Hispanic teens, and only one of those followed long-term effects. The program in the long-term study, called Ending Violence, improved young people’s knowledge and attitudes about dating violence, but didn’t show lasting effects on teens’ rates of committing it or being victims.

The researchers also found that few programs in the studies they reviewed promoted cultural pride or culturally based gender stereotypes, two approaches they suggest are essential to teen dating violence prevention among Hispanic youth.

Read the Articles

"Dating Violence and Interpersonal Victimization Among a National Sample of Latino Youth." Carlos A. Cuevas, Chiara Sabina and Kristin A. Bell. Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 55, No. 4 (October 2014).

“Who to Turn to? Help-Seeking in Response to Teen Dating Violence Among Latinos.” Chiara Sabina, Carlos A. Cuevas and Rosalie M. Rodriguez. Psychology of Violence, Vol. 4, No. 3 (July 2014).

“A Review of Teen Dating Violence Prevention Research: What About Hispanic Youth?” Krithika Malhotra, Rosa M. Guarda-Gonzalez and Emma M. Mitchell. Trauma, Violence & Abuse. Online (July 2014).

(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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