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Physical Dating Violence Common Among Teens, Linked to Risky Behaviors
May 18, 2006

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Nearly 1 out of 11 US high school students is subjected to physical violence from their boyfriend or girlfriend each year, the results of a nationwide survey suggest -- and boys are just as likely as girls to be the victim of such violence, according to a report in the May 19th issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The study also confirms that these victims of violence have an increased prevalence of high-risk behaviors.

Dr. M. C. Black, from the National Center for Injury Prevention, and colleagues analyzed data from the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which included students in grades 9 through 12 from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

A total of 14,956 students from 158 schools answered the question, "During the past 12 months, did your boyfriend or girlfriend ever hit, slap, or physically hurt you on purpose?" Their responses showed that 8.9% of boys and 8.8% of girls reported physical victimization. Based on these findings, the authors estimate that nearly 1.5 million high school students in the US who experienced physical dating violence in 12 months before the survey.

Dating violence was most common among blacks (13.9%) and Hispanics (9.3%) compared with whites (7.0%). Grade level and geographic residence did not appreciably affect the prevalence of violent behavior.

The investigators used multivariate logistic regression modeling, in which they adjusted for sex, grade level, five risk behaviors, ethnicity, and grades, to estimate the adjusted odds ratios (AOR) for high-risk activities among those who had been hurt compared with their peers who did not experience physical dating violence.

The AOR was 3.3 for attempted suicide and 1.7 for physical fighting during the previous year. Having five or more alcoholic drinks or smoking on at least 1 of the last 30 days was associated with AORs of 1.3 and 1.1, respectively. The AOR for sexual intercourse during the previous 3 months was 2.6.

Grades were also affected, with 6.1% of students not reporting physical dating violence receiving mostly A's, versus 13.7% of victimized students receiving mostly D's or F's.

"Adolescents need encouragement, examples, and guidance from parents, schools, and communities about how to relate to other people," Dr. Ileana Arias, director of CDC's National Center for Injury and Violence Prevention, states in a CDC press release. "Not only do such efforts reduce the number of immediate injuries, they can improve the overall health and well-being of our nation's children."

In response to these findings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is launching "Choose Respect," a program to prevent dating violence and foster the early development of attitudes, behaviors and skills that help form healthy, respectful relationships.

The initiative, to be conducted in 10 cities during the summer of 2006, will be directed at adolescents between 11 and 14 years. The activities and materials will include online games, podcasts, videos, posters, and public service announcements.

MMWR 2006;55:532-535.
 

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