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One in Six Adolescent ER Patients has Dealt with Dating Violence

Update Date: Jul 02, 2014 04:17 PM EDT

Dating violence is a serious problem that can lead to potentially fatal injuries. In a new study, researchers examined adolescents who visited the emergency room and discovered that one in five girls and one in eight boys dealt with dating violence over the past year. The team reported that this type of violence increases one's risk of depression, illicit drug use and alcohol use.

In this study, the researchers interviewed a total of 4,089 boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 20 who were admitted to a suburban emergency department. 72.9 percent of them were Caucasian. 86.9 percent of them were enrolled in school at the time of the study. The researchers screened the patients for dating violence.

They found that over the past year, roughly one in six of them experienced dating violence. In males, 12.5 percent reported dating violence, 11.7 percent dealt with dating victimization and 4.9 percent experienced dating aggression. For females, the rates for dating violence, dating victimization and dating aggression were 18.4 percent, 10.6 percent and 14.6 percent respectively. Dating victimization was defined as receiving violent acts and dating aggression was defined as perpetrating violent acts.

"An enormous number of youth and adolescents have already experienced violence in their dating lives," study lead author Vijay Singh, MD, MPH, MS of the University of Michigan Injury Center and Department of Emergency Medicine said according to Medical Xpress. "Patterns that begin in adolescence can carry over to adulthood. Screening and intervention among youth with a history of dating violence can be critical to reducing future adult intimate partner violence."

The researchers identified certain risk factors for dating violence, which were being African-American, alcohol and illicit drug misuse, and depression. Furthermore, female participants who reported dating violence were more likely to be on public assistance, more likely to be almost falling in school and more likely to have sought medical care for an intentional injury.

"With this many youth and adolescents experiencing either dating victimization or dating aggression, it's dangerously easy for the behavior to become 'normalized,'" said Dr. Singh. "Simply treating the injury and not assessing for dating violence loses an opportunity for injury prevention and breaking the cycle of violence. Because African-American youth experienced greater odds of dating violence than their Caucasian peers, culturally tailored interventions will be essential."

The study, "Dating Violence Among Male and Female Youth Seeking Emergency Department Care," was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

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