Dating Violence against Adolescent Girls and Associated Substance Use, Unhealthy Weight Control, Sexual Risk Behavior, Pregnancy, and Suicidality. (Sex Research Update)

Article excerpt

Silverman, J.G., Raj, A., Mucci, L.A., & Hathaway, J.E. (2001). Dating violence against adolescent girls and associated substance use, unhealthy weight control, sexual risk behavior, pregnancy, and suicidality. Journal of the American Medical Association, 286, 572-579.

Intimate partner violence against women is known to be widespread and result in a broad range of physical and mental health concerns. However, little research has clearly identified the prevalence and associated health risks of physical and sexual dating violence against adolescent girls. Using data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) in the United States, the Silverman et al. study provides estimates of the lifetime prevalence of physical and sexual dating violence among adolescent females, identifies the demographic characteristics of those most at risk, and investigates whether dating violence is a predictor of adolescent health risk behaviour.

The sample for the study consisted of 4163 9th-through 12th-grade female students who participated in the 1997 and 1999 Massachusetts component of the YRBS. Just over 70% of the participants were white. As part of the wider study, participants were asked if they had ever been hurt physically or sexually by a date or someone they were going out with. This included being shoved, slapped, hit, or forced into any sexual activity. The respondents chose from four response categories: "No I was not hurt by a date", "Yes, I was hurt physically", "Yes I was hurt sexually", and "Yes, I was hurt physically and sexually". Measures of substance use, unhealthy weight control, sexual risk behaviour, pregnancy, and suicidality were also included in the questionnaire.

About 1 in 5 (20.2% in 1997 and 18.0% in 1999) of the young women participating in the study reported ever experiencing physical and/or sexual violence from dating partners. Approximately 1 in 10 reported being physically abused by a dating partner but not experiencing sexual violence. About 1 in 25 reported experiencing sexual violence but not experiencing physical dating violence. A sizable number of respondents reported that they had been both sexually and physically assaulted by dating partners (6.4% in 1997 and 5.3% in 1999). Multivariable analysis of both survey sets (1997, 1999) found that experiencing physical dating violence was associated with heavy smoking, cocaine use, use of diet pills, laxatives, and/ or vomiting to lose weight, intercourse before age 15 years, pregnancy, and considering and attempting suicide. …