Equipping Youth

Shopping Cart

  Your cart is empty

Quick Links

May 24th, 2018 by Equipping Youth

Teen Dating Violence Part I: What It Is

Medical Institute Science Department Staff

January 2018

Teen Dating Violence (TDV) is aggression that takes place in the context of the romantic relationships of teenagers.  Authorities agree that the hostility can be broken down into three basic types of aggression: physical, sexual, and psychological. In each of these categories there is a wide range of behaviors, from relatively benign antagonisms to life-threatening physical acts. Yet, all forms of aggression and manipulation have consequences that can affect a teen’s present and future well-being.

Teen dating violence is similar, yet different from Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in adults. In adult relationships there is more likely to be an imbalance of power between the partners, usually with the male holding the greater control in the relationship. However, in TDV, there is more equity of power in relationships. For example, teen girls are far less likely to be financially dependent on their romantic partners, which may help explain why mutual aggression is common in teen dating violence.1

Teens are also under much greater influence from their peers than are adults. Often the aggressive behavior between couples takes place in the presence of other teens, especially in the school environment. That means that the attitude of peers about dating violence will influence a teen’s aggressive behavior toward their partner, especially if TDV is “normalized”.  Peer attitudes will also help determine whether or not a teen continues in a relationship when TDV is present. 1,3

Developmental factors also separate IPV from TDV.  MI staff is surprised that the literature on TDV does not mention the immaturity of the adolescent brain.  Rather, a lack of experience in relationships, including poor communication skills is presented under developmental factors.Most likely the scientific information on the adolescent brain was not widely available at the time that much of the research studies were done.

In a 2013, Dr. Kevin Vagi led a review of twenty research articles on TDV and came up with a list of 53 risk factors for teens who perpetrate violence in relationships. The CDC has listed the top eight risk factors from that review in their fact sheet ‘Understanding Teen Dating Violence”.These eight factors are:

  1. Belief that dating violence is acceptable
  2. Depression, anxiety, and other trauma symptoms
  3. Aggression towards peers and other aggressive behavior
  4. Substance use
  5. Early sexual activity and having multiple sexual partners
  6. Having a friend involved in dating violence
  7. Conflict with a partner
  8. Witnessing or experiencing violence in the home.

MI staff is also surprised that “viewing pornography” is not listed among the 53 risk factors that Vagi identified. Many of the studies reviewed by Vagi were done prior to 2010 when high speed internet and the abundance of hand-held devices made hard core pornography accessible to all.  Hopefully, more research will be done specifically to explore the potential link between violent pornography and teen dating violence.

A study in 2012 enlisted the participation of both professionals who work with TDV and young adults who personally experienced violence in their own teen dating experiences. Both groups agreed that communities are unaware and/or unconcerned about teen dating violence. The two groups also agreed that community programs for the prevention and intervention of TDV were generally “unavailable, inappropriate, or helpful, but impersonal.” This lack of awareness is disconcerting considering that 20-50% of teens report having had an aggressive dating relationship.4

When asked to describe the “ideal” prevention or intervention program, the young adults who had experienced TDV offered a number of “dos and don’ts” to the researchers.  One suggestion to the professionals is that they listen carefully to teens, since teens involved in TDV are more likely to give hints to adults rather than describe their dating situation openly.  Professionals should not expect that teens will quickly end bad relationships with the realization that they are abusive. Rather they should be prepared to take a gradual, but persistent approach to intervention.4

Both the former TDV young adults and the professionals agreed that programs aimed at preventing and correcting TDV should involve mentors, including teen mentors, and male mentors. They also agreed that teens need to be taught about what an abusive relationship looks like and what a healthy relationship looks like, along with a clear understanding of what should not be tolerated. Additionally, teens need to be taught how to effectively handle their anger.4

In light of the fact that communities continue to be unaware or unconcerned about teen dating violence, Medical Institute will continue to produce articles on Teen Dating Violence and post them on our website, in our newsletters, and on social media sites.  Look for future articles specifically dealing with physical, emotional, and sexual violence in teen relationships.

We would love to hear from you. Please post your comments on our blog following this post.


  1. Mulford C., Giordano, PC>, “Teen Dating Violence: A Closer Look at Adolescent Romantic Relationships,” NIJ Journal, Issue No. 261; pp 34-40 (2008). https://www.nij.gov/journals/261/pages/teen-dating-violence.aspx
  2. 2. Vagi KJ, Rothman E, Latzman NE, et al, “Beyond Correlates: A Review of Risk and Protective Factors for Adolescent Dating Violence Perpetration,” Youth Adolesc. 2013Apr; 42(4): 633-649. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3697003/
  3. CDC, “Understanding Teen Dating Violence: Fact Sheet,”2016. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/teen-dating-violence-factsheet-a.pdf
  4. Martsolf DS, Colbert C, Drauker CB, “Adolescent Dating Violence Prevention and Intervention in a Community Setting: Perspectives of Young Adults and Professionals,’” The Qualitative Report 2012, Volume 17, Article 99, 1-23. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ990030.pdf

Teen Dating Violence Part 2: Violence in Disguise

Medical Institute Science Department Staff

March 2018

Teen dating violence is an emerging, silent epidemic that is becoming more common among adolescents. Today’s adolescents are exposed to relationship violence at high rates6, with 33% of teens reporting some kind of abuse.1 When it comes to reporting violence, physical or sexual abuse in a dating relationship is much easier to recognize than emotional violence or mental abuse. It can be very challenging to recognize and/or report emotional abuse when not all abuse tactics are classified as criminal acts by law. Emotional or psychological violence is “abuse committed by a person subjecting or exposing another to a behavior that is psychologically harmful”.2 Emotional abuse can come in many forms that aren’t initially physical or identified as a potential health risk. Yet, sometimes the most dangerous things are those we cannot see. It is important to consider the role emotional abuse has on teens because the concept of healthy dating relationships has become more ambiguous.

Emotional violence can involve various behavioral tactics in an attempt to control another person. The abuse can involve some form of isolation, intimidation, and manipulation. Verbal threats, insults, and criticism can be used in combination to intimidate or humiliate victims of emotional abuse.  Manipulative tactics including charm, silent treatment, coercion, regression, and humiliation describe ways individuals may attempt to control their partner.5 A study using the Manipulation Tactics Scale (MTS) confirmed that such tactics are typically used to get the partner to stop unwanted behaviors.5 With the early onset age of dating in teens, their perception of dating norms may deem such tactics as harmless in relationships; but these tactics can progress to physical or sexual violence.

Humiliation/intimidation tactics of abuse are often connected with dating teens who utilize technology as a means of communication. Nearly one in five of teens who had been in a relationship experienced harassment or put downs through a social networking site.1 Current platforms for teens such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social networks are more accessible to teens through the use of cellphones and computers and have contributed to the prevalence of committing acts of dating aggression. Online surveys and interviews of teens in relationships have confirmed a large number of high-tech facilitated partner monitoring as well as the use of technology to spread rumors.  Technology and the social network environment collectively can negatively mold teens into accepting such tactics and behaviors as typical relationship issues.

In revealing tactics of abuse, it is essential to understand a perpetrator’s motive for dating violence in order to protect the health of teens. Perpetrators of dating violence can seek to undermine the teen’s independence and isolate them from family, friends, and other support systems, also known as “relational aggression”.1  Controlling a social group or environment, revealing private information, and spreading false rumors can all contribute to isolating a partner in an effort to reduce the chances of the person leaving the relationship. The Emotional Abuse Questionnaire (EAQ) assessed emotional abuse on a 4 point frequency scale and concluded that degradation was positively correlated with isolation. Some developing teens, who are victims of isolation and devalued self-worth, may become dependent upon unhealthy relationships that could eventually result in risky behaviors as well as short and long term consequences.

Risky behaviors such as underage drinking, substance use/abuse, early onset of sexual activity, and disordered eating are contributing factors for teens resulting to or becoming a victim of violence. Such factors can negatively impact teen physical and psychological development. Family values, peers, and the media can also be deciding factors in how teens perceive healthy relationships and address emotional violence. Teen exposure to dating violence indicators, healthy family and peer guidance, and signs of healthy and unhealthy dating can work to prevent abuse in teen dating relationships.

In addition to risky behaviors, there can be “near-term”, long term, and irreversible consequences associated with teen dating violence. In near-term consequences, teens are susceptible to “reduced mental health, post-traumatic stress, lower self-esteem, decline in school achievement, increases in eating disorders and substance abuse”.1 Teens that are victims of abuse can resort to destructive approaches for dealing with depression. Those “negative moods and behaviors” can serve as precursors for more dangerous forms of abuse, can be reciprocated in later relationships, and can even result in suicide. Among teens aged 15-19, suicide rates have doubled for females and increased 31% for males.Some risk factors for emotional abuse also serve as risk factors for suicide including “isolation, aggressive tendencies, clinical depression, and unwillingness to seek help”8. The unfortunate reality is that teens can either be a victim or perpetrator of abuse. Risky behaviors and consequences associated with teen dating violence progressively work to compromise the health of teens as revealed through research.

Over time, more approaches such as behavioral checklists, surveys, inventories, and analytic reviews have given insight to confirm that emotional abuse can be as harmful as physical abuse. Understanding what emotional abuse can look like is essential to developing and maintaining healthy relationships among the developing teen population. Teens and adolescents can unknowingly fall victim to and carry out these harmful behaviors as they are less equipped to identify and address the various tactics associated with emotional abuse during this time of life. Recognizing the behavioral tactics and potential health risks of emotional abuse is important to the physical and psychological development of teens and adolescents before more serious types of relationship violence can occur which result in long-term consequences.


  1. Offenhauer, Priscilla, and Alice Buchalter. “Teen Dating Violence: A Literature Review and Annotated Bibliography.” Teen Dating Violence, July 2011, pp. 1–92., doi:https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/235368.pdf.
  2. Legal, Inc. US. “USLegal.” Psychological Abuse Law and Legal Definition | USLegal, Inc., definitions.uslegal.com/p/psychological-abuse/.
  3. Karakurt, Günnur, and Kristin E. Silver. “Emotional Abuse in Intimate Relationships: The Role of Gender and Age.” Violence and Victims, U.S. National Library of Medicine,2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3876290/.
  1. Cutter-Wilson, Elizabeth, and Tracy Richmond. “Understanding Teen Dating Violence: Practical Screening and Intervention Strategies for Pediatric and Adolescent Healthcare Providers.” Current Opinion in Pediatrics, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3433035/.
  2. Vivolo-Kantor, Alana M. et al. “Relationship Characteristics Associated with Teen Dating Violence Perpetration.” Journal of aggression, maltreatment & trauma 25.9 (2016): 936–954. PMC. Web. 12 Jan. 2018.
  3. Hays, Danica G., et al. “A Phenomenological Investigation of Adolescent Dating Relationships and Dating Violence Counseling Interventions.” Professional Counselor 1.3 (2011): 222-233.
  4. QuickStats: Suicide Rates for Teens Aged 15–19 Years, by Sex — United States, 1975–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:816. DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6630a6.
  1. “Violence Prevention.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 Oct. 2017, www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/riskprotectivefactors.html#_blank.

Teen Dating Violence Part IIl: Physical AbuseMedical Institute Science Staff, April 2018

In January of 2010, Teen Dating Violence was recognized as a serious issue by the United States Senate when the body declared the month of February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention month. 1Teen Dating Violence (TDV) includes, but is not limited to physical aggression in a romantic or sexual relationship.  The purpose of this paper is to explore the physical abuse taking place in teen relationships, as reflected in the current literature on TDV. Sexual dating violence, which can certainly be physical in nature, is not included in this discussion, but will be addressed separately in a future article.

One source of recent statistics on physical teen dating violence is found in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) In  2015 almost ten percent of high school students who had dated someone in the past year reported “having been physically hurt on purpose (counting being hit, slammed into something, or injured with an object or weapon) by someone they were dating or going out with one or more times in the past 12months before the survey.” 2

A unique attribute of physical aggression in heterosexual teen relationships is that there is a high degree of mutual physical aggression.  Most studies report that in physically abusive teen relationships, both the male and the female partner use physical force.  However, there are differences in the physical abuse that is inflicted by males and females. Girls commonly report self-defense as a motivating factor, while boys commonly cite the need to take control. 3

Other differences in the male/female role of physical violence in TDV involve the degree of severity of the physical aggression.  Girls tend to employ scratching, slapping, and throwing objects, while boys tend toward more severe physical attacks involving punching and the use of weapons. There is agreement among investigators that males are less severely victimized than their female counterparts.1

The YRBS also indicates that the incidence of physical dating violence is higher in gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual students (17.5%) and in not sure students (24.5%) than heterosexual students (8.3%).  Students who had no sexual contact had the lowest incidence of physical TDV. Only 3% of abstinent students nationwide experienced physical violence in dating relationships. 2

Research findings indicate that teens experiencing physical teen dating violence are much more likely to experience violence in their adult relationships.4 Prevention and intervention efforts must be directed toward both male and female teens. Effective techniques for prevention and intervention continue to be researched. Both school-based and community programs are being initiated with some progress being reported. 5Mentoring relationships that promote both personal development and education about teen dating violence are recommended both by young adults who previously experienced TDV and professionals who work with teens involved with dating violence.6

The National Center for Victims of Crime has a website for teens experiencing dating violence that tells them how to get help, along with other helpful information. If you know a teen who may be experiencing teen dating violence, please give them this website address and encourage them to get help. http://victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/bulletins-for-teens/dating-violence



  1. Offenhauer P, Buchalter A, “Teen Dating Violence: A Literature Review and Annoted Bibliography,” July 2011, US Department of Justice (unpublished) Document No. 235368, Award # 2010IJR8832.
  2. Kann, L., Olsen, E.O., McManus T., et al, “Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12- United States and Selected Sites, 2015,” MMWR Surveill Summ 2016;65(No. SS-#); p.17.
  3. Mulford C, Giordano PC, “Teen Dating Violence: A Closer Look at Adolescent Romantic Relationships,”National Institute of JusticeJournal Issue No. 261 https://www.nij.gov/journals/261/pages/teen-dating-violence.aspx
  4. Jouriles EN, Choi HJ, Rancher C, et al, “Teen Dating Violence Victimization, Trauma Symptoms, and Revictimization in Early Adulthood,” Journal of Adolescent Health July 2017 Volume 61, Issue1, pgs 115-119.
  5. Temple JR, Le VD, MuierA, et al, “The Need for School-Based Teen Dating Violence Prevention,” Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk, 2013, Vol 4, Issue 1 New Morbidities,2.0
  6. Martsolf DS, Colbert C, Draucker CB, “Adolescent Dating Violence Prevention and Intervention in a Community Setting: Perspectives of Young Adults and Professionals,” The Qualitative Report, 2012 Vol. 17, Article 99, 1-23, http://www.nova.edu/sss/QR/QR17/martsolf.pdf.

Teen Dating Violence Part 4: Sexual Violence

Science Staff: May 2018

This article is the fourth in a series of articles written by Medical Institute (MI) science staff on the issue of Teen Dating Violence (TDV). This fourth article will focus on sexual violence within teen romantic relationships. Certainly there is overlap between psychological, physical and sexual violence, but we have chosen to address each category specifically in our articles. Our hope is that by understanding each category, caring adults might be able to better investigate TDV within their own areas of intervention with teens.

Estimates for the percentage of teens experiencing sexual dating violence varies from almost 11% to 25%. The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS) for 2015 reports that 10.6% of teens who dated in the past 12 months were forced to do sexual things (counting being kissed, touched, or physically forced to have sexual intercourse).1 The YRBS numbers come from surveys given to high school students every other year across the United States. The 2015 report notes that the prevalence of TDV in general did not change significantly since the 2013 survey and a long-range change cannot be noted, since the questions asked about TDV changed in 2013.

An interesting study on teen dating violence comes from Ohio State University. This was a small study of 297 students that reflects the large student population at Ohio State. The researchers surveyed students about their dating experiences retrospectively in high school. There were two questions on the survey that referred to sexual violence: Has any partner you’ve been involved with between ages 13 and 19 ever… 1) pressured you to participate in sexual activities by begging or arguing with you or by threatening to end your relationship or 2) pressured you to participate in sexual activities by threatening you with physical force (i.e. twisting your arm or holding you down?)2

The results of the Ohio State study showed 25% of the females surveyed experienced sexual pressure due to a partner’s persistent begging or threats, 5% due to actual physical force and 9% due to threats of physical force. For those reporting forced sexual abuse, 42.9% of those reported sexual violence from two or more partners.2

One might guess that the difference between the YRBS and the Ohio State statistics on sexual violence (10.6% vs 25%) has to do with the added aspect of “coercion” in the Ohio State Study. The wording on the YRBS study uses the word “forced” and the Ohio State study uses the term “pressured”. Unlike physical violence in teen relationships, sexual violence does seem to be perpetrated more often by males on females.2

The National Survey of Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence (STRIV) was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice in 2016. This study included about 2,000 more teens than the Ohio State study and concluded that the percentage of teens experiencing sexual dating violence as a victim was about 18%.3 At the time of this printing, our staff has not been able to locate the specific questions asked on the survey, but the report does indicate that there were four items on the survey for the measurement of sexual abuse.

Our staff did not find any articles mentioning pornography as a factor in sexual violence in teen romantic relationships. Yet, research shows that some of the risk factors for perpetrating TDV are definitely linked to pornography use in adolescents. Early sexual debut and multiple sexual partners, using drugs or alcohol while engaging in sexual activities, and believing that dating violence is acceptable are all linked to porn use;4 yet, we do not see stopping pornography viewing listed as a prevention for dating violence or even as a risk factor for perpetrators. This is an area where research is needed.

Most studies lump together the detrimental effects of teen dating violence, regardless of the type (psychological, physical or sexual). Females tend to suffer more severe psychological consequences than their male counterparts. Short-term effects include depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, substance abuse and risky sexual behavior. Long-term effects are reported as decreased self-esteem, eating disorders, addictions, and poor mental health.However, from the short-term effects listed, it isn’t difficult to also predict sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies with the resulting long-term effects of those. Perhaps the most troubling result of TDV is that the troubled relationships follow the teens into adulthood as they engage in Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Statistics reveal that 22% of women and 15% of men who are adult victims of rape, physical violence and stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced TDV.6

What can be done about Teen Dating Violence? In public health the first step is always making people aware of the problem. Here at MI, in addition to these articles, we have added more information to our Building Family Connections training on TDV. Parents have an important influence on their children and teens. We live in a culture that is filled with violence and we need to promote counter-culture living to our children. As parents, we are our children’s first and most consistent role model. What relationship patterns are we demonstrating? How do we handle conflict in our own relationships?

In our Clinical Intervention training, we have added more trauma-informed interview information. Many teens are afraid to talk about violence in their romantic relationships. Adding questions about TDV to your routine questionnaire or displaying a poster, might make a difference in a teen’s life.

As for education in our schools, what would make the greatest impact on our teens, information about “consent” or information about healthy and unhealthy relationships? In most States “consent” to sexual acts is not really legal at all, since the participants are not of legal age to consent! Yet, consent is being pushed by the comprehensive sex education promoters. Kids want to know how to say, “no” without hurting the other person’s feelings, and for that they need to understand concepts such as mutual respect and healthy boundaries. Let’s give our teens the help they really need to avoid all types of teen dating violence.


  1. Centers for Disease Control, “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United Sates, 2015,” MMWR Surveillance Summaries/Vol 65/No. 6
  2. Bonomi AE, Anderson ML, Nemeth J, et al, “Dating violence victimization across the teen years; Abuse frequency, number of abusive partners, and age at first intercourse,” BMC Public Health 2012, 12:637
  3. Taylor BG, Mumford EA, “A National Descriptive Portrait of Adolescent Relationship Abuse: Results from the National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence. Journal of Interpersonal violence. 2016;31(6):963-988.
  4. Owens EW, Behun RJ, Manning JC and Reid RC, “The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents: A Review of the Research,” Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 19:99-122, 2012.
  5. Cutter-Wilson E and Richmond T, “Understanding Teen Dating Violence,” Curr. Opin. Pediatr. 2011 Aug; 23(4):379-383
  6. Black MC, Basile KC, Breiding MJ, et al, “The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011.