Nearly one-third of those dating in middle and high school report abusive relationships, according to a new UGA study. The dating violence, which the researchers first measured in sixth grade, is a cycle that increases over time.
UGA professor Pamela Orpinas led the recent study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, which revealed that middle and high school students involved in physically violent romantic relationships consistently report violence across time and that they are likely to be both victims and offenders.
“This study shows that the kids who are involved in dating violence are consistently involved in dating violence, and this problem starts early,” said Orpinas, professor and head of the health promotion and behavior department in the College of Public Health and a member of the Institute for Behavioral Research. “About 90 percent of those kids in violent relationships are both victims and perpetrators-so it goes together. For two-thirds of the kids, dating aggression is just not an issue, but among those that report violent relationships, this problem is very stable over time.”
Orpinas and members of the youth violence prevention work group at UGA followed a cohort of adolescents from Northeast Georgia from sixth to 12th grade. Participants were surveyed each year for seven years. Each spring, students reported whether they had dated. If they did date, participants specified any acts of violence in the relationship, as well as their acceptability of these behaviors.
Among the sixth-graders who reported dating, 14 percent of boys and 24 percent of girls reported committing at least one act of physical violence. That same year, nearly 38 percent of boys and 22 percent of girls reported being victims of dating violence.
In 12th grade, 14 percent of boys and 32 percent of girls reported perpetrating dating violence while 32 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls reported being victims.
“What we find is that the trajectories that adolescents follow are very consistent over time,” Orpinas said.