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Teen Dating and Domestic Violence

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. However, these behaviors can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence.

What is teen dating violence?

Teen Dating Violence[550 KB, 2 Pages, 508] is defined as the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional aggression within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner. Several different words are used to describe teen dating violence. Below are just a few:

  • Relationship abuse

  • Intimate partner violence

  • Relationship violence

  • Dating abuse

  • Domestic abuse

  • Domestic violence

Teen dating violence is widespread with serious long-term and short-term effects. Many teens do not report it because they are afraid to tell friends and family. The 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey[2.77 MB,180 Pages, 508] found that nearly 12% of high school females reported physical violence and nearly 16% reported sexual violence from a dating partner in the 12 months* before they were surveyed. For high school males, more than 7% reported physical violence and about 5% reported sexual violence from a dating partner.

A CDC Report found among victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, nearly 23% of females and 14% of males first experienced some form of violence by that partner before age 18.

*Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris. W. A., et al. (2016). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2015. MMWR, 65(6).

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What are the consequences of teen dating violence?

Teen Dating Violence Prevention Infographic

The infographic highlights the importance of healthy relationships throughout life. Find various ways to share the infographic with partners.

As teens develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by experiences in their relationships. Healthy relationship behaviors can have a positive effect on a teen’s emotional development. Unhealthy, abusive, or violent relationships can have short- and long-term negative effects on a developing teen. Youth who experience dating violence are more likely to:

  • Experience symptoms of depression and anxiety

  • Engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol

  • Exhibit antisocial behaviors

  • Think about suicide

Additionally, youth who are victims of dating violence in high school are at higher risk for victimization during college.

Why does teen dating violence happen?

Teens receive messages about how to behave in relationships from peers, adults, and the media. All too often these examples suggest that violence in a relationship is normal, but violence is never acceptable.

Violence is related to certain risk factors. The risk of having unhealthy relationships increases for teens who:

  • Believe that dating violence is acceptable

  • Are depressed, anxious, or have other symptoms of trauma

  • Display aggression towards peers or display other aggressive behaviors

  • Use drugs or illegal substances

  • Engage in early sexual activity and have multiple sexual partners

  • Have a friend involved in teen dating violence

  • Have conflicts with a partner

  • Witness or experience violence in the home

Communicating with your partner, managing uncomfortable emotions like anger and jealousy, and treating others with respect are a few ways to keep relationships healthy and nonviolent. Dating violence can be prevented when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies.

CDC Resources

  • Preventing Teen Dating Violence[550 KB, 2 Pages, 508]

  • Preventing Intimate Partner Violence Across the Lifespan: A Technical Package of Programs, Policies, and Practices[4.52 MB, 64 Pages, 508]

  • A Comprehensive Technical Package for the Prevention of Youth Violence and Associated Risk Behaviors[4.09 MB, 64 Pages, 508]

  • STOP SV: A Technical Package to Prevent Sexual Violence[3 MB, 48 Pages, 508]

  • Dating Matters: Understanding Teen Dating Violence Prevention

  • Division of Adolescent and School Health

Other Federal Resources

  • Office on Violence Against Women


  • Office on Women’s Health: Violence Against Women topics and resources

  • Office for Victims of Crime


  • National Domestic Violence Hotline

  • Love is Respect

  • National Sexual Assault Hotline

  • National Sexual Assault Online Hotline

Resource Centers

  • National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women (VAWnet)

  • The National Sexual Violence Resource Center

  • PreventConnect

  • National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

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