Teen dating violence impacts the financial health of women

MSU study links teen dating violence to lower earnings for women.

Exploring and learning about romantic relationships is an important part of adolescence and healthy youth development.  Too often, however, these interactions cross the line into unhealthy and even violent relationships. Dating violence is a pattern of verbal, physical, sexual or emotional violence against a romantic partner.  And while intimate partner violence (IPV) happens across gender, class, race and age differences, the highest prevalence of IPV and sexual assault is among young people ages 16 to 24.  In addition, a report by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that most of those victimized by dating violence within this age group are girls and women.

Teen dating abuse is a public health concern with serious consequences. For example, teens who are victims of dating abuse are more likely to be depressed, have eating disorders and do poorly in school.  A new study also indicates that dating violence in adolescence can also lead to financial harm and lowered economic status in adulthood for women.

Michigan State University assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, Adrienne Adams conducted research involving women who are survivors of adolescent dating violence. Her research, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, explored the link between IPV and financial harm to the victims. She and her fellow researchers found that women who had been victimized by the behaviors of a teen dating partner obtained less education compared to those who had not been victimized.  Their research also showed a link between lower educational attainment and lower earnings in adulthood by those who had been victims of adolescent dating abuse. This research is significant because while there has long been evidence of intimate partner violence and financial harm to women, this is the first study to show that this harm begins as early as adolescence. A young woman’s education can be impacted by a romantic partner who destroys her homework or books, controls her actions, or causes injuries that prevent her from attending school, for example.

These and other findings support the need for education to prevent teen dating abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year about 1 in 11 teens report being a victim of physical abuse, and 1 in 5 teens report being a victim of emotional abuse.  Physical abuse includes behaviors such as shoving, pushing, hitting, slapping, punching, kicking and grabbing.  Emotional abuse includes behaviors such as name calling, threatening, insulting, shaming, manipulating, criticizing, controlling access to friends and family, expecting a partner to check in constantly, and using technology like texting to control and batter.

Young people benefit from conversations about dating violence. Michigan State University Extension offers educational programs that help adults engage young people in learning about teen dating violence, bullying and other barriers to the healthy development of young people.

If you’re concerned about yourself or someone you care about, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or (TTY) at 1−800−787−3224.  For Michigan specific resources, visit the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.

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