Boys and Girls Can Be Victims of Teen Dating Violence Interview with:
Dr. Kevin Vagi, Ph.D

Division of Violence Prevention,
CDC’s Injury Center.

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Vagi: Although there has been research on teen dating violence (TDV) for several decades, the subject has only received attention as a public health concern in recent years. Over time, prevalence estimates of physical teen dating violence victimization from CDC’s national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) (first measured in 1999) have remained around 9% with similar rates among female and male students. Until recently, there have been no ongoing national studies of sexual TDV to our knowledge.

This article describes new physical and sexual teen dating violence victimization questions first administered in the 2013 YRBS, shares the prevalence and frequency of TDV and national estimates using these new questions, and assesses associations of teen dating violence experience with health-risk behaviors. By including questions on both physical and sexual TDV, we are able to look at those youth who experienced physical TDV only, sexual TDV only, both physical and sexual TDV, any TDV, and none. These distinctions were important when investigating health outcomes associated with different types or combinations of TDV, as some health-risk behaviors have been shown to be associated with certain types of teen dating violence but not others.

In 2013, among high school students who dated, 1 in 5 females and 1 in 10 males experienced physical and/or sexual TDV in the 12 months before the survey. The majority of students who experienced physical and sexual teen dating violence experience it more than once. Students who experienced both physical and sexual TDV are more likely to have other health-risks, such as suicidal ideation and behavior, fighting, carrying a weapon, being electronically bullied, alcohol and drug use, and risky sexual behaviors. This report also offers the first national estimate of sexual TDV. Findings suggest that comprehensive prevention efforts should focus on helping students develop healthy relationship skills to prevent teen dating violence and other risk behaviors.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Vagi:  Clinicians should be aware that both female and male youth can be victims of teen dating violence and this victimization is associated with a host of health-related issues. Clinicians should be aware of the connections between TDV and health in an effort to best diagnose and treat young patients.

Also, teen dating violence prevention programs, such as the CDC-developed initiative Dating Matters® that are based on evidence about what works in prevention, can help provide teen dating violence reduction strategies for individuals, peers, families, schools, and neighborhoods.

Preteen and teen patients should be aware that teen dating violence frequently occurs more than once and that they are not to blame if they experience violence. If they experience violence from a current or former partner or know someone who may be, they should tell a trusted adult. Help is available by contacting Love is Respect at 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522.

Lastly, clinicians and patients alike should understand that adults who interact with youth can have a profound influence on their lives and the relationship decisions they make. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, mentors, coaches, faith-based leaders, and club advisers have the most direct contact with youth and can help young people better understand healthy relationships.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Vagi: Future work should examine in more detail the frequency of physical and sexual TDV and the effect that higher frequency of teen dating violence has on negative health outcomes. Because TDV victimization was associated with a constellation of health-risk behaviors, it is possible that implementing teen dating violence prevention programming may also impact rates of these behaviors. Further, identifying additional factors that put youth at risk for TDV victimization or protect them from teen dating violence victimization are also important aspects that future work should focus on.

Vagi KJ, O’Malley Olsen E, Basile KC, Vivolo-Kantor AM. Teen Dating Violence (Physical and Sexual) Among US High School Students: Findings From the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. JAMA Pediatr. Published online March 02, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.3577. Interview with: Dr. Kevin Vagi, Ph.D (2015). Boys and Girls Can Be Victims of Teen Dating Violence 

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Last Updated on March 4, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD