Information for this post came from Peggy Orenstein’s article in Education Week, 5/10/17 http://www.edweek.org/go/commentary and When Teen Dating Turns Dangerous by Jan Brogan from The Boston Globe’s article from 4/1/13 https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/2013/03/31/dangerous-dating/BasnGkyWQG2UMTaEXdWR1I/story.html
If you ask a dozen teens what their definition of dating is, you will get a dozen different answers. Some define it as ‘hanging out together’ and others talk about people they ‘hook up’ with, and others think of it as having a special friend or a friend ‘with benefits.’ That lack of a common definition can lead to a lot of misunderstanding.
In a 2008 national online survey posted on Loveisrespect.org, nearly half the 1,043 children age 11 to 14 queried said they had already been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. One in three said they knew a friend who has had intercourse or oral sex. According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40% of high school students have had sexual intercourse.
Teenagers often don’t know what constitutes a healthy relationship. Many pattern their relationships on what they see on TV or the movies. These relationships are usually dysfunctional or idyllic and far from reality. We need to instill the values of compassion, kindness, respect, and caring into dating that we want our children to embody in every aspect of their lives.
Nine percent of high school students in the state reported being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner in the last year, according to the 2011 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey. A 2011 national study puts the number of teen victims of dating violence at one in 10. When the definition of abuse is expanded to include verbal insults and controlling behavior, studies report the incidence at more than 20 percent. Teen dating violence includes emotional, physical or sexual violence. Risk factors include depression, anxiety, drug abuse, early sex and violence at home or in the surrounding neighborhood and peer bullying, according to research.
“All teens, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, are vulnerable as they experiment with their first intimate relationships,” according to Judith Siegel, a social worker and the director of mental health services in Boston Children’s Hospital. Although the majority of abuse is boys against girls, boys can be victims of girls and of other boys, she said. Abuse is not restricted to heterosexual relationships. “A teenager’s first romantic relationship plays a critical role in helping an adolescent develop a sense of who he or she is — personally and sexually,” said Deinera Exner-Cortens, lead author of a study at Cornell and a doctoral student in human development . “If a teen’s first intimate relationship is abusive, it may skew what his or her view of what a healthy relationship looks like.”
The study, which was published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics, analyzed a sample of nearly 6,000 Americans 12 to 18 years old from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. They were interviewed as teens and again five years later.
Females who had experienced teen dating violence — defined as psychological or physical violence — reported increased symptoms of depression and were 1.5 times more likely to binge-drink or smoke and twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts than those who did not experience dating abuse. Males who experienced teen dating violence reported more anti-social behaviors and were 1.3 times more likely to use marijuana and twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts. The research also indicated that avoiding social media after a break up from an abusive relationship is helpful.
There are a number of programs that high schools can weave into their health classes to help teens deal with the dating landscape. Schools need to make this part of their curriculum. In addition, parents need to have an open dialogue about dating. Parents have talks about drugs and alcohol, but often ignore information about relationships and dating. Our children need some very clear discussions about the dynamics of real relationships. They deserve that.