Reducing Teen Dating Violence Among Young Moms

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A Feasibility Study to Assess the Effectiveness of Safe Dates for Teen Mothers,” Judith W. Herrman and Julie K. Waterhouse. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, Vol. 43, No. 6. (November/December 2014).

What it's about: Researchers Judith W. Herrman and Julie K. Waterhouse wanted to see if they could adapt the Safe Dates curriculum, an evidence-based intervention for reducing teen dating violence, to meet the unique needs of pregnant and parenting youth. They recruited 48 teen moms, ages 14 to 19, to participate in a modified version of the course presented by student nurses during school hours. Young people completed three tests to measure changes to their dating violence knowledge, attitudes and behaviors, including one test given a month after the final module.

Why read it: Teen moms are more likely to experience dating violence than are young women without children and older women, with or without children. This abuse may stem from the many challenges of parenthood, or it may reflect a continued pattern of violence that makes teen girls more likely to get pregnant in the first place. Whatever the cause, abusive dating relationships can threaten the health of babies and mothers by increasing the odds of substance use during pregnancy and of preterm deliveries and even miscarriage. This article introduces readers to a potential new resource for reducing relationship abuse and improving teen sexual health among young moms.

Biggest takeaways from the research: The 41 participants who completed the study improved in several key areas, including their knowledge of community resources and gender stereotypes. The strongest improvements occurred between the first and last course module. Still, the researchers found that young people kept their new attitudes and behaviors in the month following the final session.

Youth also reported fewer instances of being psychologically abusive toward a dating partner after completing the curriculum. This finding may be especially important, the authors say, because psychologically abusive behavior, such as being jealous and controlling, often enters teen relationships before things escalate to physical or sexual violence.

Participants also reported feeling angrier about unhealthy relationships after completing the curriculum and responding more strongly to those feelings of anger. These changes may reflect students' increased awareness of their emotions after taking the course, the authors say.  Additional research could explore this finding further, they say, and, more generally, look at a larger group of participants across multiple states using a randomized, controlled study design.

Additional references: Find abstracts of other literature on teen parents and dating/relationship violence in our digital library.

Learn more about using relationship violence curriculums like Safe Dates in teen pregnancy prevention programs in our online toolkit.

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

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