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Abusive Teen Relationships and Teen Dating Violence

Abusive teen relationships and teen dating violence is becoming more prevalent and more accepted than ever. In this article we will review statistics on teen dating violence, warning signs of abusive teen relationships, and how to support a teen victim of abuse.


Abuse in teenage relationships, also called teen dating violence, is becoming more common, and more accepted among teens, according to a recent survey by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence (NCDSV).

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that nearly one in ten teens in grades 7 to 12, male and female, has been physically abused by a boy or girlfriend. Abused teens are more likely to drink heavily, use drugs, engage in risky sexual behavior, develop eating disorders, and attempt suicide.

Abuse or dating violence can be physical, verbal, or sexual, and is often used to control the other person. Some warning signs to talk to your teen about to see if they are in an abusive teen relationship or a victim of  teen dating violence include:

  • Jealous or controlling behavior, including over friends, appearance, and eating habits 
  • Sexual pressure
  • Pressure to use drugs or alcohol 
  • Name-calling or swearing 
  • A partner losing his or her temper, blaming the other for his or her behavior 
  • A partner insulting or embarrassing the other in front of others 
  • Any form of physical violence 
  • A partner threatening to hurt others or him or herself

Abusive teen relationships and teen dating violence have become alarmingly common among both genders; in a study conducted by the CDC, nearly equal numbers of teenage boys and girls reported being abused by their partner. Abusive teen relationships and teen dating violence are not limited by ethnic group or income level. According to the NCDSV: 

  • 20 percent of teens have been threatened by their partners, or had partners threaten to hurt themselves if the relationship ended. 
  • 33 percent of teens, and 50 percent of teen girls, say they have felt pressured to have sex in a serious relationship. 
  • 30 percent have worried about their safety in a relationship, and 20 percent have been hit, slapped, or pushed. 
  • 64 percent have been with a jealous or controlling partner. 
  • 55 percent have compromised their standards to keep their partner. 
  • 25 percent have been put down or called names by their partner.

Abuse will continue over time, and usually becomes more serious, leading to death in 1,300 cases each year, according to the CDC. Abusive teen relationships and teen dating violence have long lasting mental and emotional effects on its victims and the people who care about them. Unfortunately, those who are abused as teenagers are more likely to be in abusive relationships as adults. Because of the seriousness of this problem, it is important to watch for the warning signs of an abusive teen relationship or teen dating violence, including: 

  • Unexplained injuries 
  • Changes in appearance 
  • Withdrawal from friends and family 
  • Giving up activities that were once enjoyed 
  • Changes in behavior or mood - acting depressed, anxious, or secretive, or acting out 
  • Alcohol or drug use 
  • Apologizing for or justifying a partner's behavior - especially his or her temper 
  • Acting afraid of a partner, or worrying about making him or her angry 
  • One partner is possessive and makes all the decisions 
  • One partner insults, criticizes or embarrasses the other

If you are in an abusive teen relationship or a victim of teen dating violence, talk to a trusted adult to get help. The Teen Action Campaign suggests that if your child or friend is in an abusive teen relationship, talk to them. Be supportive and make it clear that it is not their fault they are being abused. Do not judge them or push them to do anything they are not comfortable with, and be patient. Encourage your teen to stay out of contact with the abuser. If you know the abuser, do not attack him or her as a person, but it make it clear that his or her behavior is not acceptable and encourage him or her to talk to a counselor and develop healthy behaviors. Do not hesitant to turn to good sources for help, including trusted school counselors, religious leaders, doctors, community support groups, the police, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.


  1. Center for Disease Control: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, and "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report," May 19, 2006
  2. Teen Action Campaign
  3. National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
  4. National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  6. Girl's Health.gov

Related Article: Youth Violence >>

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