Love Is A Battle Field? The Effects Of Physical Aggression In Relationships Starts As Early As Sixth Grade
Being in a romantic relationship is already hard work but including physical violence in the mix literally means experiencing the dark side of love. A recent study led by Professor Pamela Orpinas of the University of Georgia investigated the effects of physical aggression in relationships and found that this could start as young as sixth grade.
The study, entitled Healthy Teens Longitudinal Study, aims to understand the association of problem behaviors, like physical aggression and substance abuse, and its changes over a period of time. It also focuses on how intimate partner violence affects other problematic behaviors like suicidal ideation, tendency to carry and threat with a weapon, and substance abuse.
In a previous study, the researchers have already categorized the 588 randomly selected student-participants as either low trajectory (no history of dating violence) or high trajectory (high tendency of violence). Over the course of seven years, the student-participants completed a self-reported, computer-generated survey each spring during sixth grade to twelfth grade.
A prior study found that almost two-thirds of the participants reported low to non-existence levels of intimate partner violence. A third of the participants had a high probability of committing acts of physical violence towards their romantic partners.
Published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, the findings of the current study found that student-participants categorized in the increasing trajectory are more likely to exhibit problematic behaviors like attempting suicide, carrying or threats with weapons and substance abuse particularly the use of alcohol and marijuana compared to the student-participants categorized in low trajectory.
More than half of the students who experience intimate partner abuse or in an abusive relationship reported carrying a weapon at least once during the duration of the study. In addition, almost one out of these students reported threatening someone with said weapon.
Students in both trajectories saw the increase in the consumption of alcohol and use of marijuana. However, those in the increasing trajectory had a higher consumption of alcohol and marijuana enough to be considered substance abuse.
The most alarming result of the study is that intimate partner violence and its associated problem behaviors start in teenagers as young as sixth grade. This study shows that people in abusive relationships are more likely to attempt suicide, carry a weapon and threat another person using that weapon, and succumb to substance abuse. Intimate partner violence is a public health concern and interventions targeting these cluster of problems should start as early, even earlier than sixth grade.