Over a third of U.S. teenagers report having been sexually, physically, or emotionally abused at some point in their dating relationships, according to new data that will be presented at an upcoming meeting of the American Psychological Association. A similar share of teen boys and girls also admit to having been an abuser at some point in a relationship.
The results were striking. Of the 1,058 surveyed youth (who were between the ages of 14 and 20), 41 percent of young women and 37 percent of young men said they had been victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. At the same time, 35 percent of girls and 29 percent of boys admitted that they had inflicted some form of abuse on a partner. Those numbers may actually be underestimations, since the data is based on self-reported answers.
Public health experts cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions from the data, since the researchers have not yet released more detailed information about the severity of the self-reported abuse. While young women may be more likely to commit “light” emotional abuse, such as taunting behaviors, other studies have found that young men are more prone to committing sexual assault or other violent abuse.
The new numbers are particularly concerning from a public health standpoint because teen dating violence leaves a lasting impact on physical and mental well-being. It can also propagate future violent behavior. Researchers writing in the journal Pediatrics found that teens aged 12 to 18 who had reported being in abusive relationships were two to three times more likely to be in a violent relationship five years later than those who hadn’t been victims of abuse.
In January, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a strong recommendation that all women between the ages of 14 and 46 receive regular screenings for Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Since the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover procedures strongly recommended by the task force without a co-pay, Americans will be able to get these screenings for free.