Intimate partner violence can occur at any age, with 7% of teenaged homicides perpetuated by intimate partners and mostly against female victims.1
The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, reveals just how serious a problem intimate partner violence against teenagers has become. According to the report, a multistate study of more than 2000 homicides involving 11- to 18-year-olds reveals that 150 of those homicides were carried out by an intimate partner of the victim.1
Most research on intimate partner violence has focused on adults, the researchers say, but intimate partner violence among teenagers is perhaps more widespread than some realize, they note.
Of the 6.9% of total homicides among teenagers that were perpetuated by intimate partners, the study reveals that 90% of the victims were female. Nearly 78% of perpetrators in these cases were aged older than 18 years and 88.9% were male, adds the report. Perpetrators were typically about 4 years older than their victims, and roughly 63% were current intimate partners of the victims.
The study also delved into the motives behind the crimes, noting that the most common motives were broken/desired relationships, jealousy or altercation related, reckless firearm behavior, and pregnancy.
Teen dating violence is escalating
“There is a perception that teen dating violence is less serious or not as harmful as adult intimate partner violence, and I think this study really highlights the potential for this violence to escalate and result in tragic and deadly outcomes,” says Avanti Adhia, SCD, a senior fellow at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, and lead author of the study. “Teen dating violence is a serious problem that has the potential to lead to death. The adolescents who are at highest risk of this outcome are girls,” she points out.
According to the 2011 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, an estimated 71.1% of females and 58.2% of males experience sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner before they reach age 25 years. Even in the high school years, the 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey reveals that 6.9% of teenagers who dated experienced sexual violence and 8% experienced physical violence by someone whom they were or had been dating.
Who is vulnerable
Teenagers who may be particularly at risk for intimate partner violence are those who have a history of abuse in their families or other family dysfunction because their parents may be less likely to intervene or establish strong support systems, the report notes. Additionally, emotions are heightened in adolescence, and poor emotional regulation and a lack of positive relationship skills make conflict resolution among teenaged intimate partners difficult. Finally, the authors point out that intervention can be difficult even when a good support system is in place, as teenagers who are in abusive relationships will often turn to peers for help rather than adults.
1. Adhia A, Kernic MA, Hernenway D, Vaviliala MS, Rivara FP. Intimate partner homicide of adolescents. JAMA Pediatrics. 2019;173(6):571-577.
2. Kistin CJ, Rothman EF, Bair-Merritt MH. Deadly adolescent intimate partner violence and the need for youth-specific strategies for effective intervention. JAMA Pediatrics. 2019;173(6):524-525.