MONDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Almost one-fifth of
high-school students admit they physically abused someone they were
dating, and those same students were likely to have abused other
students and their siblings, a new study finds.
The study provides new details about the links between various
types of violence, said study lead author Emily F. Rothman, an
associate professor at the Boston University School of Public
"There's a huge overall connection between perpetration of dating violence and the perpetration of other forms of youth violence," she said. "The majority of students who were being violent with their dating partners were generally violent. They weren't selecting their dating partners specifically for violence."
For the study, published in the December issue of the journal
Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, the researchers surveyed 1,398 urban high school students at 22 schools in Boston in 2008 and asked if they had physically hurt a girlfriend or boyfriend, sibling or peer within the previous month.
The authors define physical abuse as "pushing, shoving,
slapping, hitting, punching, kicking, or choking." Playful
aggression was excluded.
More than forty-one percent said they'd physically hurt another
kid on at least one occasion the previous month; 31.2 percent
reported that they'd physically abused their siblings, and nearly
19 percent said they'd abused their boyfriend, girlfriend, someone
they were dating or someone they were simply having sex with.
Among those admitted to dating violence, 9.9 percent reported
kicking, hitting, or choking a partner; 17.6 percent said they had
shoved or slapped a partner, and 42.8 percent had cursed at or
called him or her "fat," "ugly," "stupid" or a similar insult.
Proportionately more girls than boys (27 percent versus 10
percent) reported they'd abused dating partners.
After adjusting for factors including age and specific schools,
the researchers found that abuse of dating partners was strongly
linked to abuse of other students, especially among boys.
Students who used drugs, carried knives or had been in trouble
with the law were also more likely to abuse their dating partners.
And those who had witnessed community violence were also more
likely to engage in violence.
These findings are consistent with research on adult male
batterers, which has shown that domestic violence often accompanies
other violent and criminal behavior, the authors said.
The study has some caveats, however. The students -- nearly 80
percent of whom were black or Hispanic -- only came from public
high schools. Those who weren't recently dating were excluded, and
the findings were self-reported. Also, motives were not examined,
so it's unknown if any teens acted in self-defense.
Still, the results can help people who work with teenagers
detect dating violence, Rothman said. "This study supports the idea
that we should go to those kids who are being violent with siblings
and peers and address their violent behavior in general," she
Monica Swahn, an associate professor at Georgia State
University's Institute of Public Health whose research includes
violence and injury epidemiology, said the study findings give
researchers insight into how they may reduce teens' abusive
behavior by targeting more than one type of violence.
However, few anti-violence programs for school children have
been shown to be effective, she said.
For more about
violence and kids, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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