Data on teen dating violence

Recent paper in JAMA Pediatrics, “Teen Dating Violence (Physical and Sexual) Among US High School Students Findings From the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey“:

Importance  National estimates of teen dating violence (TDV) reveal high rates of victimization among high school populations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national Youth Risk Behavior Survey has provided often-cited estimates of physical TDV since 1999. In 2013, revisions were made to the physical TDV question to capture more serious forms of physical TDV and to screen out students who did not date. An additional question was added to assess sexual TDV.

Objectives  To describe the content of new physical and sexual TDV victimization questions first administered in the 2013 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, to share data on the prevalence and frequency of TDV (including the first-ever published overall “both physical and sexual TDV” and “any TDV” national estimates using these new questions), and to assess associations of TDV experience with health-risk behaviors.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Secondary data analysis of a cross-sectional survey of 9900 students who dated, from a nationally representative sample of US high school students, using the 2013 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Two survey questions separately assessed physical and sexual TDV; this analysis combined them to create a 4-level TDV measure and a 2-level TDV measure. The 4-level TDV measure includes “physical TDV only,” “sexual TDV only,” “both physical and sexual TDV,” and “none.” The 2-level TDV measure includes “any TDV” (either or both physical and sexual TDV) and “none.” Sex-stratified bivariate and multivariable analyses assessed associations between TDV and health-risk behaviors.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is a CDC project that many researchers use to talk about what’s going on with kids and risk. My first question here was, of course, how do you define teen dating violence. Up until 2011, it was a single question that read, “During the past 12 months, did your boyfriend or girlfriend ever hit, slap, or physically hurt you on purpose?” As we tried to adapt this question into clinical decision support years ago, this led to a heated argument in my research group. For instance, rough (but totally consensual) sex could get a “yes”. It also only referred to a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” and could leave out casual acquaintances. But now, things are much more informative. Here you go:

Physical TDV was assessed with the following question: “During the past 12 months, how many times did someone you were dating or going out with physically hurt you on purpose? (Count such things as being hit, slammed into something, or injured with an object or weapon).” The new sexual TDV question was: “During the past 12 months, how many times did someone you were dating or going out with force you to do sexual things that you did not want to do? (Count such things as kissing, touching, or being physically forced to have sexual intercourse).” Response options for both items were: “I did not date or go out with anyone during the past 12 months,” “0 times,” “1 time,” “2 or 3 times,” “4 or 5 times,” and “6 or more times.” Because of skewed frequency levels and for ease in interpreting the ratios, the responses for both TDV variables were dichotomized into 0 times and 1 or more times for all bivariate and multivariable analyses.

These seem much more specific. The addition of “that you did not want to do” to the sexual questions removes a lot of ambiguity. So does the removal of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”. And the results are somewhat depressing. In 2013, about 21% of girls and 10% of boys reported some form of teen dating violence. Females had a higher prevalence of pretty much all combinations of physical and sexual teen dating violence. Students who experienced teen dating violence were more likely to have all other health-risk behaviors as well.

These data are much more reliable compared to past data. They also paint a picture of an issue in society that needs remedy. We know it exists. Time for research to focus on reducing it.



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