Teenage Violence and Abuse Can have Long-term Effects
Q: What are the effects of teen abuse and violence in dating relationships?
A: Teen romantic relationships can have either positive or negative effects. They can enhance teen self-esteem, popularity, status, social competence and feelings of self-worth. They can help teens develop autonomy and independence. The positive can coexist with the negative effects.
Teens can learn relationship skills in romances that will help them in adult relationships. These include the ability to manage and regulate strong emotions, conflict negotiation skills, and how to develop and maintain intimate relationships. In the past, teen romances have been considered relatively unimportant because they are short-lived and seemingly unstable. Research documents teen romances play significant roles in the lives of adolescents and have significant effects on their psychological development and their future adult relationships. The above information is courtesy of the National Youth Mental Health Foundation of Australia.
An online publication from the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada reported the emotional effect of dating violence varied by gender. In general, girls were more upset than boys. However, both boys and girls who feared family violence and had friends in violent relationships were more upset. Those adolescents who had just friends in violent romances were not upset with their own situations. Researchers speculated dating violence was seen as a peer group norm and thus was not upsetting.
According to the California Adolescent Health Cooperative, teen dating abuse and violence is a public health issue. It is epidemic in occurrence and has short and long-term effects on teen relationships. Violence in relationships intensifies through time, in both frequency and severity. Parents (81 percent) either think teen dating violence is not an issue or state they don’t know.
In a 2013 article from the Boston Globe on dangers in dating, correspondent Jan Brogan reported the results of a study from Cornell University found teens who were physically or psychologically abused in dating relationships were more than twice as likely than non-abused teens to develop unhealthy adult relationships. When a teen’s first romance is abusive, it influences the teen’s expectations of adult intimate relationships.
In a study from a nationwide survey of 500 parents of children ages 14 to 18, just more than half had discussed dating abuse with their children. The survey was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2011.
A fact sheet on dating abuse, published by Pediatric Partners on a website titled All About Children, points out the health risks that stem from abusive dating relationships. Most obvious are physical injuries from physical violence. However, unhealthy sexual behaviors can result in unintended pregnancies, sexually-transmitted diseases and HIV infections.
Rates of alcohol, other drugs and tobacco use are twice as high for girls who report physical or sexual abuse. Victims of dating violence and abuse are more likely to engage in physical fights, binge drinking and suicide attempts.
Teens in violent or abusive dating relationships can experience disruptions in the normal development of positive self-esteem and body image. Probably the most harmful long-term effect of teen dating abuse is carrying these patterns into adult intimate relationships.
Additional ill effects are reported by a 2012 fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Victims of teen dating violence are more likely to be depressed or to have eating disorders. They also do poorly in school. Since dating violence begins sometime between 11 and 17 years of age, years when peer influences are strongest, education efforts need to focus on changing peer attitudes and behavior toward dating violence.
Ill effects of dating violence are not limited to victims. According to an article from the Children’s Safety Network titled “Teen Dating Violence as a Public Health Issue,” perpetrators have been linked with fighting with peers and suicidal behaviors.
Another finding from research studies concerns the effect of early sexual experiences. Sex before age 14 predisposes teens toward abusive dating relationships. As the age for first sex increases, the incidence of dating violence and abuse decreases.
Teen dating violence affects boys and girls who are victims differently, according to an article online from U.S. News and World Report, 2013. Girls were more likely than boys to suffer long-term effects from a combination of physical and psychological violence. Girls, of course, are more apt to be seriously injured than boys. The genders also handle physical violence differently. Boys tend to laugh off physical violence, whereas girls are more likely to experience fear.
A consequence of breaking up in teen romances can be one former partner experiencing intrusive contacts by the other. These behaviors are equally likely to be imitated by girls and boys and the types of intrusive contacts are similar for both genders. Intrusive contacts can last months or years.
Girls are more apt to be victims than boys. Examination of factors influencing the development of intrusive behaviors after breaking up did not reveal any aspects that could be used to predict that intrusive behaviors would be likely after break-ups.
For more information about Teen Dating Violence you can go to the Center for Disease Control “Teen Dating Violence” site or call the National Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 and you will be connected 24/7 with an advocate trained to offer education, support and advocacy to those involved in dating abuse relationships as well as concerned friends, siblings, parents, teachers, law enforcement members and service providers.
ACS’ After-School Counseling Program is available for all teens in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties who have suffered from violence or abuse of any kind. For more information or to make an appointment contact Director of Outpatient Counseling Services, Connie Mayer by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 650-424-0852 ext 104.