Teasing and name-calling are not normal parts of a relationship, despite what teenagers may think. Such behaviors can become abusive and eventually escalate into more serious forms of violence. Teenage dating violence is a very serious problem that can have tragic consequences. According to a survey conducted by the CDC, almost 10% of high school students say they have suffered from physical violence, while 11% say they have experienced sexual violence from a dating partner in the year prior.
Intervention and prevention strategies to combat against dating violence should start much earlier on in a child’s life than their teenage years. It is important to note that a child’s very first experience with learning how to deal with relationships is the experience he or she has with their parents. When parents do not have healthy behaviors, it is likely to be passed on to their children.
Alcohol abuse is a pervasive abuse problem in the United States. It affects many households, and with that many children. According to estimates from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 20% of today’s adults grew up in a household where one or more of their caregivers was an alcoholic. The relationship between parental alcohol abuse and teen dating violence is a strong one worth investigating for prevention strategy development.
Evidence of Effects of Early Exposure to Aggression
Many chalk up unhealthy behaviors during the teenage years to normal adolescent shortcomings, but one study suggests people adapt to aggressive behaviors much earlier than puberty. The study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, found that children who had fathers with an alcohol use disorder beginning at a young age were more likely to become aggressive and perpetuate dating violence when they became teenagers.
Additionally, the study found that the mothers in those families tended to suffer from depressive symptoms, which left them less able to be warm and sensitive with their children during their early years. The finding is significant because it established a link between warm, sensitive mothers and children who are better able to regulate their emotions and behaviors as they grow up. The authors note that children who are more aggressive during their younger years are more likely to grow up and be aggressive with their romantic partners during their teenage years.
Consequences of Teen Dating Violence
The consequences of teen dating violence should not be underestimated. During the teenage years, people are developing emotionally can be greatly influenced by their relationships – both positive and negative. Abuse, violence or otherwise unhealthy relationships can cause a teenager to experience:
- Symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Suicidal ideation
- Development of unhealthy behaviors, such as drinking, smoking or using drugs
- Antisocial behaviors
Teenagers who have experience dating violence are also more likely to face victimization during their college years.
How to Prevent the Abuse Cycle
Early intervention in families where suspected alcohol abuse is occurring is a key strategy in preventing future dating violence. Mothers, in particular, need support. If mothers are better able to nurture and be sober and loving with their children, they will be much less likely to be involved in aggressive behavior during their teenage years.