Abuse among dating teens pervasive, fed survey finds
New York – — From violence to verbal taunts, abusive dating behavior is pervasive among America’s adolescents, according to a federally funded survey. It says a majority of boys and girls who date describe themselves as both victims and perpetrators.
Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, the National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence was conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, a prominent research center which provided preliminary results to the Associated Press. Input came from a nationwide sample of 667 youths aged 12-18 who’d been dating within the past year and who completed a self-administered online questionnaire.
Nearly 20 percent of both boys and girls reported themselves as victims of physical and sexual abuse in dating relationships — but the researchers reported what they called a startling finding when they asked about psychological abuse, broadly defined as actions ranging from name-calling to excessive tracking of a victim. More than 60 percent of each gender reported being victims and perpetrators of such behavior.
The survey found no substantive differences in measures by ethnicity, family income or geographic location.
Elizabeth Mumford, one of the two lead researchers for the survey, acknowledged that some of the behaviors defined as psychological abuse — such as insults and accusations of flirting — are commonplace but said they shouldn’t be viewed as harmless.
“None of these things are healthy interactions,” she said. “It’s almost more of a concern that our gut reaction is to accept this as natural.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in its campaigns against teen dating violence, also stresses the potential seriousness of psychological abuse.
“Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name calling, are a ‘normal’ part of a relationship,” says a CDC fact sheet. “However, these behaviors can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence.”
Bruce Taylor, the other lead researcher for the NORC survey, said the overall abuse figures were higher than previous national studies of dating abuse, revealing “the startlingly widespread nature of this problem.”
Using a definition under which adolescent relationship abuse can occur in person or through electronic means, in public or private, and between current or past dating partners, the survey estimates that 25 million U.S. adolescents are victims and nearly 23 million are perpetrators.
Taylor and Mumford said the high rates in their survey may stem in part from youths being candid due to the privacy of the online format. They also suggested that dating abuse is now so common that young people have little concern about admitting to it.