Teen Dating Violence Part 3: Physical Abuse

Teen Dating Violence Part III: Physical Abuse

Medical 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. 1 Teen 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 12 months 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. 5 Mentoring 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.