New Study Finds Two-Thirds of California Teens Experience Dating Violence

According to a new study, California teens may experience dating violence more than others. The study, conducted by Chapman University and non-profit organization Laura’s House, found that two-thirds of teenagers in Orange County experienced “some kind of dating abuse.” That’s nearly two times the national average, as reported in earlier studies.

How Is This New Dating Violence Study Different?

Laura’s House is a California non-profit organization that provides “domestic violence-related services” to Orange County residents. The study, which was conducted in conjunction with Chapman University, evolved as members of the organization noticed that teen dating abuse was a huge topic of conversation among the young people it served. When the group searched for data about dating violence, it found that there wasn’t much out there. The studies that did exist also defined teen dating violence rather narrowly, limiting the scope to physical and sexual abuse. In order to get a better handle on the issue, Laura’s House began to devise a new, modern study of dating violence.

Broadening the Scope

There’s no hard-and-fast definition for teen dating violence. This provides a great deal of flexibility when studying the epidemic. As a result, most studies simply limit the scope of dating violence to physical and sexual abuse. Domestic violence experts at Laura’s House believed that this narrow definition resulted in mass underreporting of dating violence. In order to fix the issue, the new study focused on a wider range of abusive behaviors, including “psychological, emotional, and cyber” abuse.

Survey Uses Anecdotal Responses

The Laura’s House teen dating violence study didn’t actually use input from teenagers. Instead, more than 1,500 young adults aged 18-21 were surveyed for ethical reasons. Those adults were asked to reflect on their time as teenagers. The study was narrowed to focus on 206 individuals who (a) attended high school in Orange County and (b) dated at least once during their teenage years. Approximately three-quarters of these respondents were female.

What Does the New Study Tell Us?

The study found that 69 percent of these subjects “reported some kind of dating violence during their teenage years.” Most began to experience abuse between the ages of 15 and 16. Some, however, were abused when they were as young as 11 years old.

Many of the subjects responded to the additional types of teen dating violence described by the study. The study found that the following types of dating violence were reported most frequently:

  • Psychological abuse (72.3 percent)
  • Cyber abuse (45.1 percent)
  • Stalking (44.2 percent)
  • Physical violence (34.5 percent), and
  • Sexual violence (33.5 percent).

Expanding the scope of dating violence could certainly help to explain why the study seems to indicate that dating violence is more prevalent in Calfornia. When new abusive behaviors are taken into account – including cyber abuse and bullying – more teens are likely to relate. Nearly three-quarters of all respondents indicated that they’d been the victim of psychological aggression. This type of dating abuse is often excluded from other major studies. However, Laura’s House warns that it’s dangerous to “lessen the emotional and psychological impacts” because “those can leave scars that last longer than physical abuse.”

Using The New Study to Reduce Teen Dating Violence

Laura’s House hopes that the new study can help to ignite a nationwide discussion about teen dating violence. The organization firmly believes that it’s vital to start conversations about dating violence with kids early on in life. Prevention and stopping the cycle of abuse before it starts can be a game changer.

Preventing Dangerous Practices

Education and prevention can help to stop young people from developing habits and behaviors that can jeopardize their futures. A teen who is abusive in a dating relationship is more likely to carry those bad habits into adulthood. Those abusive habits can escalate into more violent behaviors that warrant criminal prosecution. The promise of that young person’s life could be halted because of bad habits that were developed at a young age. Early intervention and education can help to prevent this from happening.

Limiting the Damage of Dating Violence

Reducing teen dating violence will also have clear benefits for would-be victims.  Studies have shown that many victims of teen dating abuse turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with the reality of their trauma. Others develop debilitating emotional conditions, including PTSD and depression. Some victims even resort to taking their own lives to stop the pain. Rather than coping with the abuse of their teenage years, young adults would be free to experience life without reservation or fear.

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