Increasingly, over the past fifteen years, dating violence among adolescents has emerged as a growing public health concern. While the first article on late teen courtship violence appeared in 1981 (Makepeace, 1981), a current search of the PubMed database, using the key terms "adolescent dating violence," identified 110 articles published since 2000; this is more than a three-fold increase in the number published during the preceding 7-year period. Furthermore, dating violence has been incorporated in Healthy People 2000 and 2010, the blueprints for national decennial public health initiatives (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000a, 2000b). Finally, dating violence prevalence trends are now regularly monitored through the Center for Disease Control's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, specifically the Youth Risk Behavior Study (YRBS) (YRBSS).
National trends in the prevalence estimates of physical dating violence victimization over the previous 12-month period among high school youth indicates its relative stability; prevalence rates in 2005, 2003 and 1999 were 9.2%, 8.9%, and 9.1%, respectively (MMWR, 2006a MMWR 2006b; Howard & Wang, 2003a, Howard & Wang, 2003b). In other words, on an annual basis, dating violence takes its toll on a substantial number of youth. Moreover, victimization appears undifferentiated by gender and is associated with risk behaviors for both male and female high school students (MMWR, 2006b; Cercone, Beach, & Arias, 2005; Gray & Foshee, 1997). Based on 1999 national YRBS data, a risk profile of youth who reported past year physical dating violence victimization was identified. Overall, being a victim of dating violence was associated with reports of sad/hopeless feelings and engagement in high-risk sexual practices, specifically, recent multiple sex partners and unprotected sex. Gender differences in this risk profile emerged as well. Among males, attempted suicide and fighting behavior were correlated with victimization, while among females, binge drinking and cocaine or inhalant use were predictors (Howard & Wang, 2003a; Howard & Wang, 2003b). The co-occurrence of dating violence victimization with emotional well-being and engagement in other risk behaviors has been substantiated by a host of studies across geographic locales and diverse samples of youth (Roberts, Auinger, & Klein, 2005; Silverman, Raj, & Clements, 2004; Ackard & Neumark-Sztainer, 2002; Foshee, Benefield, Ennett, Bauman, & Suchindran, 2004; Foshee, Linder, MacDougall, & Bangdiwala, 2001).
While prevalence rates for dating violence victimization by gender are quite similar during adolescence, the adult literature suggests that Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is largely a gender-specific issue with victimization rates for females ranging from three to six times those for males (Silverman, Raj, & Clements, 2004; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Even during adolescence, females are more likely to suffer injury (Cercone, Beach, & Arias, 2005; Halpern, Oslak, Young, Martin, & Kupper, 2001; Foshee, 1996; Lane & Gwartney-Gibbs, 1985). Furthermore, adolescent females are more vulnerable to violent sexual abuse from dating partners than males (Foster, Hagan, & Brooks-Gunn, 2004). For these reasons, the focus here is on adolescent females.
The present study aims to update prevalence estimates and examine the robustness of the risk profile of dating violence among adolescent females based upon the most current and representative data from the national 2005 YRBS of U.S. high school students.
The 2005 national school-based Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data were used for this study. This survey is one component of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) that was established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor the prevalence of youth behaviors that most influence health. …