By Dr. Chiara Sabina, Associate Professor & Chancellor’s Scholar for Inclusive Excellence in Interpersonal Violence Research

Historically partner violence research has emphasized studying married or cohabiting couples. Less emphasis has been placed on partner violence in dating relationships, particularly among adolescent youth.  Nonetheless, the experience of dating violence (DV) during adolescence is an adverse childhood experience linked to long-term consequences such as depressive symptomatology, episodic drinking, marijuana use, antisocial behavior, suicidal ideation, and subsequent intimate partner violence (Exner-Cortens, Eckenrode, & Rothman 2013; Exner-Cortens, Eckenrode, Bunge, & Rothman 2017).

DV may include physical violence, sexual violence, psychological aggression, and stalking and can take place in person or via technology. The most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) ( showed that 8.2% of US high school students experienced physical dating violence and 8.2% experienced sexual dating violence in the past year. Risk for these experiences, however, was heightened for girls and LGBTQ+ youth.  Girls experienced significantly more physical (9.3% as opposed to 7%) and sexual (12.6% vs. 3.8%) victimization than boys. LGBTQ+ youth experienced significantly more physical (13.1% as opposed to 7.2%) and sexual (16.4% vs. 6.7%) victimization than heterosexual youth.  Differences between White, African American, and Latinx youth did not reach significance, although other studies do find racial/ethnic differences (Wincentak, Connolly, & Card, 2017).  Of note, however, is that the YRBS does not take into account a full range of DV experiences (e.g., exclusion of stalking or psychological dating violence, cyber abuse).  A tri-state study of teens in relationships found 26% experienced cyber dating abuse and 47% experienced psychological dating abuse in the past year (Zweig, Dank, Yahner, & Lachman, 2013), pointing to the high prevalence of these behaviors among youth.

As research uncovers the links between various forms of violence, along with shared risk and protective factors, we note that those who experienced DV were much more likely to experience other types of victimizations, especially child maltreatment, sexual victimization, and polyvictimization, as opposed to those with no DV history (Hamby, Finkelhor & Turner, 2012).  These compounded victimization experiences are associated with more injury and fear. In an effort to understand the connections between various forms of violence, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has listed risk and protective factors that are shared with other forms of violence such as child abuse and neglect, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, etc. at each level of the social ecology (see  At the individual level, risk factors include low education achievement, lack of problem-solving skills, poor impulse control, history of violent victimization, witnessing violence, mental health problems, and substance use.  Relationship risk factors include social isolation, poor parent-child relationships, family conflict, delinquent peers, and gang involvement.  At the community level risk factors include a lack of neighborhood cohesion. Societal risk factors include cultural norms that support aggression and harmful gender norms. Protective factors include problem solving skills at the individual level and family support, connection to a caring adult, association with prosocial peers, and school connection at the relationship level.  Protective factors at other levels of the social ecology have not been researched.

Prevention and intervention efforts have focused on educating youth about healthy relationships, offering support, and teaching them relationship skills.  For example, Love is Respect is a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and offers 24/7 information and support to young people and those in their lives via phone, text, and live chat (1-866-331-9497).  Additionally, Futures Without Violence launched a new app, Respect Effect, aimed at teaching healthy relationship behaviors ( Longstanding prevention programs include Dating Matters from the CDC, aimed at 11-14 year old children, that works on individual, relationship, and community levels using seven different components including many of the risk and protective factors identified above ( Evaluation results show that those who participated in Dating Matters reported lower risk of DV perpetration (8% lower) and victimization (10% lower) compared to those who were involved in another prevention program. Participants also reported a decrease in other risk behaviors, such as weapon carrying and alcohol and substance use.

While there is a large body of research available and several programs addressing DV, there is still more to be done. Education of teachers, parents, and community members on how to identify DV can be a vital part of intervention efforts.  Macro-level changes around gender and violence norms are needed to create alternative visions around dealing with conflict in relationships.  We also need more prevention and intervention efforts that address populations disproportionally affected by DV and incorporate cultural strengths.  Prevention of a range of negative life events begins with having healthy relationships in the teenage years and thus multi-layered approaches that reach all youth are needed.

Exner-Cortens, D., Eckenrode, J., Bunge, J., & Rothman, E. (2017). Revictimization after adolescent dating violence in a matched, national sample of youth. The Journal of Adolescent Health, 60(2), 176–183.

Exner-Cortens, D., Eckenrode, J., & Rothman, E. (2013). Longitudinal associations between teen dating violence victimization and adverse health outcomes. Pediatrics131(1), 71–78.

Hamby, S., Finkelhor, D., & Turner, H. (2012). Teen dating violence: Co-occurrence with other victimizations in the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV). Psychology of Violence, 2, 111-124.

Wincentak, K., Connolly, J., & Card, N. (2017). Teen dating violence: A meta-analytic review of prevalence rates. Psychology of Violence, 7(2), 224–241.

Zweig, J. M., Dank, M., Yahner, J., & Lachman, P. (2013). The rate of cyber dating abuse among teens and how it relates to other forms of teen dating violence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(7), 1063-1077.

This story was created in partnership with Rutgers School of Social Work's Inclusion, Intersectionality, Diversity, Equity, and Advancement (IIDEA) Committee in support of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.