Teen Dating Violence Prevention

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month, which was first observed in 1987 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in order to raise awareness and education efforts for domestic violence, as well as connect victims to resources.

Teen dating violence is an often-unrecognized subcategory of domestic violence. Adult intimate-partner violence and marital abuse have gained more recognition, as seen, especially in the past three decades, in policy, program, and legal responses, and in an extensive research literature base devoted to the problem. Adolescents, by comparison, have been long overlooked as a population that suffers from relationship abuse. Although there is research on rates of crime and victimization related to teen dating violence, research that examines the problem from a longitudinal perspective and considers the dynamics and perceptions of teen romantic relationships is lacking. Consequently, those in the field have to rely on an adult framework to examine the problem of teen dating violence.

New Media Impact on Teen Dating Violence
While dating violence can include physical, emotional, and psychological harm, a new theme is now emerging in the literature on dating violence with respect to psychological abuse using electronic technologies, including cell phones and social media, i.e. sexting. While most of the literature on the use of these technologies for interpersonal abuse among teens still focuses on peer abuse and bullying, attention is growing to their specific uses in dating-related emotional abuse.

Federal Interagency Workgroup on Teen Dating Violence
Beginning in 2006, the Federal Interagency Workgroup on Teen Dating Violence was established as a result of the 2006 Workshop on Teen Dating Violence, which was coordinated and led by the National Institute of Justice.  The Federal Interagency Working Group on Teen Dating Violence is comprised of 18 agencies representing the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, Education, and Defense. Since its inception, the Workgroup has coordinated teen dating violence programming, policy, and research activities to combat violence from a public health perspective.

Concept Mapping
In order to fill the gaps in previous research on teen dating violence, The National Institute of Justice and the Federal Interagency Workgroup on Teen Dating Violence is currently funding the development of concept maps on adolescent relationship abuse. The concept maps will bridge adolescent and adult viewpoints on the definition of relationship abuse. By working with and engaging youth, the project will be able to gain a better understanding of adolescent relationships, as well as gender, race, ethnic, geographic, sexual orientation, and disability differences. The Working Group hopes the concept maps will help to determine differences or similarities in how adolescents and adults view relationship abuse, as well as the value that adolescents place on relationship characteristics.

The results of the project will help to ensure that prevention and intervention efforts can incorporate language and conceptualizations of relationships that youth can relate. Further, the findings will educate youth about dangerous behaviors that they may not have previously considered negative or abusive. Finally, they will include recommendations for how to incorporate the findings into planning of programmatic activities and research agendas in the area of teen dating violence that will help to encourage future programs and efforts in the prevention of teen dating violence.

Community Efforts
There are many ways to help prevent dating violence among teens in the community, including:

  • Supporting businesses that promote healthy choices for teens.
  • Becoming a mentor to teens in the community or equip them to mentor younger kids.
  • Getting involved with the youth group at a place of worship or local community center.
  • Participating in Choose Respect, an initiative that helps teens form healthy relationships to prevent dating violence before it starts, activities in the community.
  • Promoting dating violence prevention activities to the media to help spread the word about healthy dating behavior.
  • Involving policy makers in playing a role to promote healthy teen relationships.
    • Establishing policies and laws that promote healthy relationships and prevent dating violence.
    • Assuring that resources and services are available to support dating violence prevention efforts.
    • Providing the community with clear and consistent messages about healthy behavior and respect.

For more information and resources on teen dating violence, visit:

For more information on youth engagement, please visit:

If you know a teen who is in an abusive relationship and needs immediate help or information about local resources, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233); TTY 1-800-787-3224 for the hearing impaired.

Draucker and Martsolf, 2010.