Teen Dating Violence & Prevention

Teen dating violence (TDV) is a type of intimate partner violence. It occurs between two people in a close relationship.


TDV includes four types of behavior:

  • Physical violence is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.

  • Sexual violence is forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual event (e.g., sexting) when the partner does not or cannot consent.

  • Psychological aggression is the use of verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally and/or exert control over another person.

  • Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone close to the victim.

Teen dating violence also referred to as, “dating violence”, can take place in person or electronically, such as repeated texting or posting sexual pictures of a partner online without consent. Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name-calling, are a “normal” part of a relationship—but these behaviors can become abusive and develop into serious forms of violence. However, many teens do not report unhealthy behaviors because they are afraid to tell family and friends.


How Big Is The Problem?

TDV is common. It affects millions of teens in the U.S. each year. Data from CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey indicate that:

  • Nearly 1 in 11 female and approximately 1 in 15 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year.

  • About 1 in 9 female and 1 in 36 male high school students report having experienced sexual dating violence in the last year.

  • 26% of women and 15% of men who were victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their life first experienced these or other forms of violence by that partner before age 18.

  • The burden of TDV is not shared equally across all groups—sexual minority groups are disproportionately affected by all forms of violence, and some racial/ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by many types of violence.

What are the consequences?

Unhealthy, abusive, or violent relationships can have severe consequences and short-and long-term negative effects on a developing teen. For example, youth who are victims of TDV are more likely to:

  • Experience symptoms of depression and anxiety

  • Engage in unhealthy behaviors, like using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol

  • Exhibit antisocial behaviors, like lying, theft, bullying, or hitting

  • Think about suicide

Violence in an adolescent relationship sets the stage for problems in future relationships, including intimate partner violence and sexual violence perpetration and/or victimization throughout life. For example, youth who are victims of dating violence in high school are at higher risk for victimization during college.


When dating violence is present among teens it tends to lead to dating violence in their adult years, as well. Dating violence is prevalent among both heterosexual teens and LGBT teens. And while both groups are at risk for violence and abuse, LGBT teens are much more at risk than previously thought.


Urban Institute Study on LGBT Dating Violence Among Teens

The Urban Institute’s recent study focusing on dating violence among LGBT youth-produced some frightening statistics.


The study looked at a total of 5,647 young people. Among those, 3,745 reported either being in a current dating relationship or have ended a dating relationship within the past year.


Across the board, LGBT youth are at higher risk of all sorts of dating violence than are heterosexual youth. Transgender and female you are at the highest risk of teen dating violence.


Here are some statistics from the Urban Institute study:

  • 43% of LGBT youth and 29% of heterosexual youth reported being victims of physical dating violence.