Patterns of dating violence may begin as early as middle school according to new research from the University of Texas School of Public Health. The violence may continue into later dating relationships as well.
Previous research concluded that 10 percent of high schoolers have experienced physical violence in a relationship and up to 25 percent had been victimized either emotionally or physically by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Dating violence in high school students has been linked with sexual risk-taking and substance use.
Researchers at the University of Texas School of Public Health Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research asked if this pattern extended to children of middle school age and if there were associations between adolescent dating violence and sexual and substance abuse risk behaviors.
They found that more than 50 percent of sampled middle school students had experienced dating violence. Specifically, about 1 in 5 reported physical dating violence victimization and 48.1 percent reported nonphysical victimization. There were no significant differences in the prevalence of dating violence victimization by race/ethnicity.
“Not only are these rates similar to those seen in older, high school populations they are similar to those seen among adult females,”, said Dr. Melissa Peskin, assistant professor in the Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at the School of Public Health.
These findings suggest the need for intervention and prevention efforts to reduce dating violence in middle schools and potentially even earlier. Results were published in the June 2013 issue of Journal of School Health.
[Photo: Dr. Melissa Peskin]