Teen dating violence: Abuse in young relationships can lead to long-term issues

Published 6:22 pm Wednesday, March 23, 2016

By Natalie Looney

Teenage years come with a whole host of stressors.

Who am I?

What am I going to be when I grow up?

Do people like me?

Do I like myself?

Adolescents are often tweeting, texting, posting on Instagram, and snap chatting an event before it has even ended.

The pressures of who am I and am I liked can be even greater with so many means of communication happening simultaneously, leaving little time to reflect.  Parents often are trying their best to help their teens navigate between the worlds of adulthood and adolescence; however, they may not be completely prepared for the adult problems many teens are now trying to solve.

Teen dating abuse is a problem across the US that is slowly becoming more discussed.  Statistics on the precise number of victims are difficult to pinpoint due to low reporting on the part of adolescent victims.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as recently as 2014 reported that 22 percent of adult female victims of domestic violence and 18 percent of adult male victims of domestic violence experienced their first victimization as a teenager between the ages of 11 and 17.

Teen dating violence is acknowledged as a public health concern for individuals and communities and is recognized by the CDC as causing negative long-term health effects for both.

Teen dating abuse is no different than the dating abuse adults’ experience, except teens have added barriers to avoid an abuser.

Teens may not be able to switch schools and teens must depend on a guardian due to legally being considered a minor in the court system.

Teen dating violence is directly related to poorer educational outcomes such as lower grade point average (GPA) and poor attendance.

Teen dating violence has also been linked to anxiety, depression and increased risk of unhealthy behaviors such as drug and alcohol use.

Teen dating violence occurs across socioeconomic levels and is most prevalent among teens who believe that their behaviors are acceptable, have a history of witnessing violence in the home, engage in sexual activity early or experience substance abuse.

Parents need to look for warning signs and talk to their teen if they notice a withdrawal from friends or previous activities they once enjoyed, increased anxiety/depression or a change in the way they dress. Abusers may be texting or threatening the victim through social media, stalking or preventing them from attending events without them.

Prevention of teen dating abuse is the best method to protect our teens.

Parents, teachers and influential adults can help most by talking to their children in the pre-teen years and teaching them about healthy relationships.

Teens need to understand how to communicate, set boundaries, resolve conflicts and trust others when forming intimate relationships and are starting to date.

There a many resources available on the Internet. Visit Loveisrespect.org or breakthecycle.org to learn more.

Natalie Looney, RN, BSN, is a school health nurse, for the Franklin County Health Department, 100 Glenns Creek Road.

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