Teens in an abusive relationship may be more likely to develop later emotional and substance abuse problems, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics.
The study involved more than 5,600 12- to 18-year-olds who had been involved in one or more relationships with the opposite sex back in 1996. About one-third of these said they had experienced relationship violence, including emotional and physical abuse.
Specifically, participants were asked if they had ever been called names, insulted, or treated disrespectfully by their partner. They were also asked if they had been threatened with violence, pushed, shoved, or had something thrown at them.
Five years later, those who answered yes to any of these questions were more likely to be involved in unhealthy behaviors. In particular, girls who had been victims of dating violence as teens were more likely to binge drink, have symptoms of depression, smoke, and think about suicide as young adults, compared with girls who were in healthier relationships.
Boys who experienced dating violence in their teens were more likely to be antisocial, think about suicide, and smoke marijuana as young adults than boys who did not report any dating violence or abuse.
Both genders who were in physically abusive relationships as teens were also two to three times more likely to be in abusive relationships at ages 18 to 25, the study shows.
“Children and teens need to know what it means to be in a healthy dating relationship,” said researcher Deinera Exner-Cortens of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
“Parents, teachers, and health care providers all have a role to play in encouraging healthy relationships and modeling respect, trust, and open communication.”
In other words, it’s “do as I say and do as I do” when helping kids understand what a healthy relationship looks like, she said.