According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, teenagers who find themselves in toxic and controlling dating relationships are at risk of developing various problems as they enter adulthood, including drug abuse, mental illness, and physical health problems.
The research analyzed 38 studies conducted between 2004 and 2022 that focused on the effects of teen dating violence, including cyber, psychological, sexual, and physical abuse.
They found that teenagers – mostly women – who engaged in troubled romantic relationships during their teenage years were likely to repeat such dating patterns, as well as start smoking cigarettes, marijuana, and drinking alcohol.
Additionally, they were more prone to engaging in unprotected sex and sexual activity under the influence of alcohol, which led to unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
Teen dating violence was linked to depression symptoms in young women for up to six years following the teenage relationship. And the findings indicate that girls are at more risk of intimate partner violence.
The overall prevalence of physical violence in teen dating relationships was 20%, while psychological abuse was much more common, at up to 88%. This includes verbal and nonverbal controlling behavior.
The research adds to the evidence that teenage girls are particularly vulnerable to intimate partner violence and reinforces the need to provide support and resources to mitigate the impact.
While it is possible that all teenagers will not suffer lasting negative consequences from violent relationships, adolescence is a period that sets up trajectories in terms of how young people experience adulthood.
Positive or negative experiences during adolescence can have long-term effects.
The study did not include data on LGBTQ teenagers. However, previous research has shown that gay, lesbian, and bisexual teenagers are at higher risk of experiencing physical and sexual dating violence compared to teenagers who identify as heterosexual.
It is important for parents, teachers, and young adults to be aware of the signs of teen dating violence and to take steps to prevent and address it to help break the cycle of unhealthy relationships and support teenagers, especially girls, toward more positive outcomes.