Teen dating violence has a long-term negative impact

The risk of experiencing or perpetrate violence in teenage relationships is high: around 20 percent for physical violence and around 9 percent for sexual violence. A research team of health psychologists has now conducted a systematic review study to determine the extent to which these experiences have a long-term impact. The results show: Adolescents who experience or perpetrate teen dating violence (TDV) are more likely to report the same in adulthood. In addition, long-term evidence shows that youth reporting dating violence are more likely to later engage in increased risk behaviours (for example, alcohol and marijuana use) and poor mental health.   

“If you report dating violence as an adolescent, this can be a risk factor for a wide range of long-term consequences,” said Antonio Piolanti, a postdoctoral associate at the Department of Health Psychology at the University of Klagenfurt, summarizing the findings. The study, recently presented in the journal Pediatrics, fills an important research gap: While there have been numerous individual studies on the long-term associations between TDV and later outcomes, there has been no systematic review. For this paper, Antonio Piolanti, Franziska Waller, Iason E. Schmid, and Heather M. Foran identified 38 articles and systematically assessed the characteristics of the studies and the results. The majority of the studies were conducted after 2010 and in the United States. Participants ranged in age from 13 to 18 years, and follow-ups ranged from 1 year to 35 years. Four types of relationship violence were analysed: physical violence, psychological or emotional violence, sexual violence, and cyber abuse.

Commenting on the findings, Antonio Piolanti says, “The link between TDV and similar experiences in adulthood was most apparent. This suggests that violence in relationships may be part of a continuum that begins early.” Significant associations between TDV and negative outcomes were reported more frequently among females compared with males. In addition, the analyses showed some links between TDV and increased risk behaviours, as Piolanti explains, “We see that the majority of studies conclude TDV is associated with later cigarette, alcohol and marijuana use.” Also striking, he said, is the link to increased sexual risk behaviours, such as unprotected sex or intercourse under the influence of alcohol. Associations with poorer mental health can also be found among those who report TDV in adolescence.

“The results of our study show that the long-term consequences of violence in teenage relationships can be serious. Prevention programmes are therefore very important, especially since they have already been able to prove in other studies that they are effective,” concludes Antonio Piolanti.

Piolanti, A., Waller, F., Schmid, I. E., Foran, H. M. (2023). Long-term Adverse Outcomes Associated with teen dating violence: A Systematic Review. Pediatrics Vol. 151/6, DOI: 10.1542/peds.2022-059654.