Gender and contextual factors in adolescent dating violence

Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health collected during the 1994-95 school year, Halpern et al (2001) found that 32% of adolescents in 7-12th grade reported experiencing some kind of violence in dating relationships within the 18 months prior to the interview.

Other smaller scale studies have found prevalence rates of dating violence ranging from 9% to 57% (O'Keefe, 2005).

Adolescents may be at even greater risk than adults for physical and psychological harm given their lack of experience, desire for independence, and reliance on support from inexperienced peers (Callahan, 2003).

These factors limit their ability to respond to violence and access effective intervention.

Evidence suggests that dating violence among high school students is more widespread than previously believed, and may have serious developmental consequences.

Adolescents are especially vulnerable to this form of violence since it may interfere with two tasks that are integral to healthy social development: 1) establishing caring, meaningful relationships, and 2) developing interpersonal intimacy.

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However, until recently most dating violence research has focused on adult couples or college students, not on adolescents.Reasons why prevalence rates vary so significantly have to do with the lack of standardized definitions used to assess dating violence.

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