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Gender Considerations

Both boys and girls experience and perpetrate teen dating violence; often teens report that both partners committed aggressive acts during the relationship.1 Studies focused on the rates of teen dating violence by gender have had inconsistent results. While some studies have found girls to be victims of teen dating violence at higher rates than boys,2 others have found similar rates of aggression/victimization between boys and girls.3 According to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey System data the prevalence of dating violence victimization, defined as being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend during the 12 months before the survey, was higher among 11th-grade males than 11th-grade females.4

While findings of teen dating violence rates based on gender remain inconsistent, research suggests that girls seem to suffer disproportionately from severe violence in relationships (i.e., physical and sexual assault).5 For example, studies have found that adolescent girls are more likely than boys to be seriously injured or suffer sexual abuse as a result of dating violence.6 Additionally, data from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV) conducted in 2008 found that girls seemed to be more afraid of teen dating violence victimization compared to other types of victimization than boys; in a list of 43 types of victimization, girls ranked teen dating violence 13th while boys ranked it 42nd.7

Recent research has also found a relationship between intimate partner violence and reproductive coercion. A study of women ages 16 to 29 seeking care in five family planning clinics in Northern California found that of 16- to 20-year-old women (42.6 percent of the total sample) over half reported that they had experienced partner violence, 18 percent reported pregnancy coercion, and 12 percent reported birth control sabotage. These findings suggest an overlap in reports of partner violence, pregnancy coercion, and birth control sabotage and find a connection between these behaviors and unplanned pregnancies.8

Research also suggests that girls and boys have different motivations for aggressive acts against their partners.9 In reviewing research on teen dating violence, Mulford and Giordano found that

  • both boys and girls reported anger as the prime cause of their aggressive acts;
  • girls were more likely to also report self-defense as a motivator for aggression; and
  • boys were more likely to report the desire for control. 10

Further research suggests that boys rarely reported physical harm and were more likely to laugh off aggressive acts by their partner,11 while girls reported serious harm and physical injury and tended to suffer long-term negative consequences such as suicide attempts, depression, and substance use. 12

Rates of violence and abuse are similar for teens in same-sex relationships, according to data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Almost a quarter of youth between the ages of 12 and 21 years in same-sex romantic or sexual relationships reported some type of partner violence victimization in the previous eighteen months, and a tenth reported experiencing physical violence by a dating partner. Findings showed that females were more likely to report victimization than males.13

1 Mulford & Giordano, 2008
2 Wolitzky-Taylor et al., 2008; Marquart, Edwards, Stanley, & Wayman, 2007
3 O’Leary, Slep, Avery-Leaf, & Cascardi, 2008
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010
5 Swahn, Simon, Arias, & Bossarte, 2008; Molider & Tolman, 1998
6 Halpern, Young, Waller, Martin, & Kupper, 2001; Molider & Tolman, 1998
7 Office of Justice Programs, 2011
8 Miller et al., 2011
9 Mulford & Giordano, 2008
10 Mulford & Giordano, 2008
11 Molider & Tolman, 1998
12 Ackard, Eisenberg, & Neumark-Sztainer 2007; Molider & Tolman, 1998; Olshen, McVeigh, Wunsch-Hitzig, & Rickert, 2007
13 Halpern, Young, Waller, Martin, & Kupper, 2004

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