Teen Behavior Violent Abusive Relationships

The teen years are the times when people generally begin dating. For too many teens, however, casual dating can turn into an abusive relationship. A recent study published by the National Institute of Justice (2007) found that 10 percent of adolescents reported being physically assaulted by a boyfriend or girlfriend within the past 12 months. Researchers believe that the rate of verbal and emotional abuse is even higher.

Violence among dating teens is linked to long-lasting emotional problems as well as physical injury. It is also a predictor of abuse in adult relationships. As such, teen relationship abuse is a major public health concern for schools, parents and the community at large.

About Dating Violence in Teens

Teen dating violence is the term most often used to refer to teenage abusive relationships. Teen dating violence includes both physical and non-physical forms of abuse, specifically:

  • Physical abuse: The abuser may punch, push or kick the partner to induce physical injury or pain. Physical forms of abuse also include prohibiting the partner from dressing a certain way or spending time with friends.
  • Sexual abuse: This form of abuse occurs when an abuser forces the partner into any unwanted sexual activities through physical strength or verbal demands.
  • Emotional abuse: Emotional abuse is the use of insults, blame tactics or psychological dominance to gain control over the dating partner. Emotional abusers may make use of social media or text messaging to carry out their mistreatment.

Both boys and girls can be the abuser in a relationship. However, in cases that involve severe physical violence, girls tend to fall victim more often than boys.

Warning Signs of Teen Dating Violence

The warning signs that a teenager is being abused by her romantic partner include:

  • Change in appearance or behavior
  • Decline in academic or extracurricular performance
  • Loss of interest in previous hobbies
  • Unexplained bruises or other signs of injury.

Parents may also notice that their teen’s partner exhibits controlling behavior, such as calling on the phone excessively to “check in.” The teen’s safety is of the utmost importance, so parents should step in if they suspect their teen is being abused.

For the parents of the abuser, the warning signs to look for are:

  • A history of violent behavior or threats of violence
  • A tendency to shift blame to others
  • Angry outbursts
  • Displays of jealousy or controlling behavior towards the partner
  • Rigid ideas on the roles of men and women in romantic partnerships.

Parents who suspect their teen is abusing a dating partner need to seek help from a medical professional.

The Cycle of Abuse

Research suggests that having past experience as a victim of abuse is the single biggest risk factor in a teen’s likelihood of becoming a perpetrator of dating violence (AtHealth.com, n.d.). Medical professionals sometimes refer to this phenomenon as a cycle of abuse. Parents can help break this cycle by setting a good example of healthy ways for dealing with anger and instilling the belief that violence is not a normal part of romantic relationships.


Athealth.com. (n.d.). Dating violence: Why does it occur and how does it fit in the cycle of violence? Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://www.athealth.com/Consumer/disorders/datingviolence.html

Focusas.com. (n.d.). Abuse: teen dating violence. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://www.focusas.com/Abuse-TeenDatingViolence.html.

Mulford, C and Giordano, P. at the National Institute of Justice. (2008). Teen dating violence: a closer look at adolescent romantic relationships. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/journals/261/teen-dating-violence.htm

The California Adolescent Health Collaborative. (n.d.). Teen dating violence: keeping California adolescents safe in their relationships. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://www.phi.org/pdf-library/teen_violence_brief.pdf

Washington State Office of the Attorney General. (n.d.). Parent FAQs: relationship violence – help for parents. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://www.atg.wa.gov/page.aspx?id=1972

Witmer, D. (n.d.). Warning signs of teen dating violence. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://parentingteens.about.com/od/teendating/a/datingviolence.htm