Child Maltreatment, Adolescent Dating,
and Adolescent Dating Violence
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
University of Toronto
Adolescent dating is becoming less of a mystery to researchers. While still an emergent area, the normative context of dating is described by a general pattern where most youth are thought to move from the smaller same-sex cliques of middle childhood to larger mixed-sex crowds of early to mid-adolescence, to heterosexual coupling of mid- to late adolescence (Connolly, Furman, & Konarski, 2000). Given that there is no epidemiological work on adolescent dating patterns over the course of adolescence, there may be substantial variation within age groups and between genders, ranging from dating abstinence to exclusive partnering. In their peerships, teens are seeking to fulfill an increasing number of needs, including recreation, status-seeking, affiliation, support, and emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy (Feiring & Furman, 2000; Furman &Wehner, 1994, 1997). Adolescents develop heterosocial skills through observational learning and direct reinforcement from their peer groups (Hansen, Christopher, &Nangle, 1992).
Romantic relationships, for many youth, are initiated in early- to midadolescence (Krajewski, Rybarik, Dosch, & Gilmore, 1996), as their social networks come to include a larger number of opposite-sex friends (Feiring & Lewis, 1991; Connolly, Craig, Goldberg, & Pepler, 1999; Connolly et al., 2000). A survey conducted by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and YM magazine (1999) found that while the majority of 13- to 14-year-olds surveyed reported they had begun dating, romantic behaviors were largely limited to kissing, with only 4% identifying intercourse. By age 17 to 18 years, 52% of the youth reported dating relationships as including intercourse. Interestingly,