Dating violence in teens may start elsewhere

    A study from Boston University’s School of Public Health found that teenagers who physically abuse their siblings or peers are more likely to abuse a girlfriend or boyfriend.

    Bullying has been getting more attention lately, but usually not in connection with dating and domestic violence. Emily Rothman is a professor of Public Health at Boston University and the study’s author. She said the most important finding from this study is that there’s a huge overlap between dating violence and other forms of peer violence.

    Rothman’s survey of public school students found that male teens in particular are more likely to hit, punch or choke their dates if they do the same to a brother or sister or classmates.

    Without intervention, Rothman said this behavior can have long-term consequences.

    “When we make that investment in prevention programs and address violence and other issues early on before behaviors become entrenched, then we are able to save that money down the road,” she said. The costs she counts include the criminal justice system, substance-abuse treatment, counseling and health care.

    Rothman said 10 percent of teens report being physically harmed by a dating partner in the past year.

    Roberta Hacker is the executive director of Women in Transition, an organization that holds workshops on dating violence in Philadelphia schools. She said she’s not surprised by the overlap of bullying and dating violence because both are about the ability to intimidate and then threaten individuals.

    “Bullying has always been a fascinating phenomenon,” said Hacker. “The fact that it carries over into teen dating violence situations or even adult relationships…It’s an interesting weapon that is used to control people.”

    Teen victims of dating violence face a higher risk of injury, drug abuse, eating disorders and depression. The study said it’s important for teachers, parents and students to recognize that teens using violence in one context might be likely to use it in another.

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