Two recent studies by the University of Maryland School of Public Health examined the persistence of physical dating violence (PDV) among teens despite decades of national and local prevention efforts. The research showed that PDV rates have remained fairly consistent for females since 1999 and that rates for male victims of PDV have increased.
Dr. Donna Howard, associate professor in the department of behavioral and community health, led two studies which provide 10 year trend data on the psychosocial correlates of physical dating violence victimization among females and among males who participated in the CDC’s national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys of U.S. high school students from 1999-2009.
The study on trends in females, published in the Journal of School Health (June 2013), found that approximately one in 10 girls experience PDV annually. Teenage girls who reported being physically abused by a girlfriend or boyfriend were more likely also to report feeling sad and hopeless, have suicidal thoughts, violence-related behaviors, and engage in sexually risky behavior.
The related study, published in the International Quarterly of Community Health Education (2012), focused on trends among males, found that the prevalence of male PDV victims increased roughly 30 percent between 1999 and 2009. “By 2009, almost one in eight high school males reported having been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend within the past year,” Dr. Howard and colleagues state. The study showed significant associations between PDV among males and feelings of hopelessness, physical fighting, multiple sex partners, and lack of condom use.
Dr. Howard and her research team, which included Dr. MinQi Wang, professor, and Mr. Brian Gilchrist, doctoral candidate, both in the department of behavioral and community health, and Dr. Katrina Debnam, research associate in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, call for new studies, interventions, and programs to explore these recent trends and discoveries, and argue that such initiatives are crucial for school personnel and parents to better understand the issue and navigate “the complicated world of teen dating.”