In a healthy dating relationship skills class for teens, the facilitator asked the participants what they do when they get angry at their boyfriend or girlfriend. One young man spoke up and said, “I just choke her.”

Sadly, violence is a reality in many teen dating relationships. So if you have teens in your life, this topic is definitely worth your time and attention.

According to a study commissioned by Liz Claiborne and conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited in 2008:

  • 1 in 3 teenagers knows a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked or physically hurt by their partner;
  • 62 percent of tweens (age 11-14) who have been in a relationship say they know friends who have been verbally abused (called stupid, worthless, ugly, etc.) by a boyfriend or girlfriend;
  • Only half of tweens claim to know the warning signs of a bad/hurtful relationship;
  • Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend had threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a break-up; and
  • Nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser.

National Center for Victims of Crime studies indicates that teen dating violence runs across race, gender and socioeconomic lines. Males and females are victims, but boys and girls are abusive in different ways. Girls are more likely to yell, threaten to hurt themselves, pinch, slap, scratch, or kick. Boys injure girls more severely and frequently.

A comparison of intimate partner violence rates between teens and adults reveals that teens are at higher risk in intimate partner abuse.

Is your teen at risk? 

Does he or she know the warning signs of an abusive relationship? Would you recognize the symptoms? Many parents say they don’t know the warning signs of teen dating violence.

If you are wondering whether or not your teen is in an unhealthy relationship, here are some warning signs from the Break the Cycle website:

  • She apologizes for his behavior and makes excuses for him.
  • Your teen loses interest in activities she used to enjoy.
  • She stops seeing friends and family members and becomes more and more isolated.
  • When your daughter and her boyfriend are together, he calls her names and puts her down in front of other people.
  • He acts extremely jealous of others who pay attention to her, especially other guys.
  • A young man thinks or tells your daughter that you (her parents) don’t like him.
  • He controls her behavior, checks up on her constantly, calls and pages her, demanding to know who she has been with.
  • She casually mentions his violent behavior, but laughs it off as a joke.
  • You see him violently lose his temper, striking or breaking objects.
  • She often has unexplained injuries, or the explanations she offers don’t make sense.

Teens need to understand that hitting a girlfriend or boyfriend is a crime.

In the vast majority of teen dating violence, the female is the victim. However, this conversation shouldn’t only take place with female teens. This is an important conversation for parents to have with their sons and daughters.

A number of excellent resources are available to help you discuss dating violence together, including The site has a parent’s guide for talking to your teen, statistics, warning signs, and additional resources. 

Being aware of the warning signs of violence and taking action can prevent the wrong types of relationships from happening. It can also end the abuse cycle for teens who are in the midst of it.

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