More than one-third of people who report being victims of dating violence as teenagers had two or more abusive partners, according to a new study.
Overall, nearly two-thirds of the 271 college students surveyed, including both men and women, reported some type of dating violence — whether physical, sexual or psychological abuse — between the ages of 13 and 19.
The lead researcher, Dr. Amy Bonomi, associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University, noted she was surprised at how many of the teens had two or more abusive partners.
About 43 percent of women said two or more partners had pressured them into sex during their teenage years. About 60 percent of men said they had two or more partners who had sent unwanted calls or text messages.
“For about one in three teens who were abused, it wasn’t just one bad boyfriend or girlfriend,” she said.
She added the same patterns were not seen in similar studies of adults, who tend to report abuse by a single partner.
For the study, 271 students aged 21 and under at Ohio State completed a web-based survey about their dating history between ages 13 and 19.
Psychological abuse was the most common type of abuse reported in the study. The category of “yelling, swearing and insults” was the most frequently reported type of psychological abuse, noted by 43 percent of female victims and 44 percent of males.
Nearly 25 percent of females experienced sexual pressure due to a partner’s persistent begging, compared to 11 percent of males. Fewer than 5 percent of women said they were hit or physically harmed, compared to 13 percent of men.
Some types of dating violence tended to occur at earlier ages than others, the study found. For females reporting dating violence, controlling behavior tended to occur early, with 44 percent reporting it between the ages of 13 and 15. For males, 13 to 15 was the most common age range for the first occurrence of put-downs and name-calling (60 percent).
The researcher says the results call for better education in our elementary schools.
“Many of these kids are getting in relationships early, by the age of 13,” Bonomi said. “We need to help them learn about healthy relationships and how to set sexual boundaries. It shouldn’t just be one class session — it needs to be a routine discussion in school.”
The study appeared online in the journal BMC Public Health.
Source: The Ohio State University