High School Dating Violence Rates Unchanged For 12 Years, Study Says

Boston researchers find that high school students are being abused by their romantic partners at the same rate as in 1999.

A new study by researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) indicates that high school students are being abused at a disturbing rate that has held steady for 12 years.

The study, published in the December issue of the Journal of School Violence, found that one in 10 high school students is abused by their romantic partner. BUSPH researchers examined data from more than 100,000 students who participated in the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey. The survey gathered data from students from 1999 to 2011. The results indicate that 9.3 percent of students have been “hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose” by their partner in the past year.

Despite national campaigns to end dating violence and domestic abuse in the U.S., this rate did not change over the course of the 12 year survey. Additionally, both men and women who participated in the study reported almost equal amounts of dating violence.

Dating violence and domestic abuse have serious mental health repercussions such as depression, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, and increased risk for drug and alcohol abuse, according to the CDC, making it a public health issue that should be addressed.

Dr. Emily Rothman, lead author of the study and an associate professor of community health sciences at BUSPH said in a report:

“While 9 percent may sound low, this figure puts dating violence on par with many of the other public health issues that we tend to view as serious problems, such as obesity, frequent cigarette smoking, or driving after drinking. The real concern here is that the rate has not gone down at all in the past 12 years, while the rate of physical fighting with peers has decreased significantly. That means that whatever headway we have made in reducing youth violence does not extend to people in dating or sexual relationships.”

Rothman and her colleagues are working on developing several programs designed to prevent and decrease dating violence. She says that controlled tests of these programs have proved to be effective.