Unhealthy and dysfunctional relationships can start at any time in one’s life, it can start early and last throughout the individual’s lifetime. Just like with some adults the ability to recognize and or identify when abuse is occurring, when the relationship is unhealthy is very difficult for Teens to accept.

Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing, taunting, criticizing, and name calling, are a “normal” and “acceptable” part of a relationship, especially a young relationship. After all, the perception of the taunting, teasing, name calling etc., is what they are expected to do as teenagers. Unfortunately, the behaviors previously described can and often do escalate into physical violence.

To best understand and identify teen dating violence, we must first identify what is dating violence? Teen dating violence is defined as the physical, sexual, psychological, emotional violence, stalking and menacing behaviors that occur within a teen dating relationship. With the enhancements of technology and accessibility teen dating violence no longer just occurs in person, but can occur online as well. Violence can occur between teens actively in a relationship or following a break-up.

Although, there is considerable speculation as to why teen occurs no one can say for certain why some teens become violent during or after a relationship has ended.

Some possible reasons teens become violent with and after a relationship has ended include;

  • Domestic violence at home. Witnessing violence between parents or being abused by a parent, which is called learned behavior or modeled behavior. Often violence is committed to ensure control or compliance by the victim.
  • Teens may also become more prone to violence, when they themselves are bullied, or teased creating a need or desire by the teen to exert control or exact revenge.
  • Access to weapons, such as guns & knives especially for teens that have been exposed to violence can increase the likelihood of violence in a teen dating relationship.

According to the research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, teen violence can also be caused by frustration due to learning disorders, emotional distress, or attention deficits. In many of the cases where teen violence occurs the teens has not learned or developed the skillset to appropriately negotiate personal challenges, therefore they are more prone to act out frustrations through violence.

As teens grow and mature, personalities are influenced by life and social experiences. Hence, based upon their perceptions of and experience with various types of relationships determines if they are more likely to have healthy or unhealthy relationships in their own lives. Having and establishing positive relationships in one’s life can have a positive effect on a teen’s emotional development. However, negative relationships can have severe consequences for both short-term and long-term development.

Teens in an unhealthy dating relationship often experience;

  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Risky/unhealthy behaviors such as drug and alcohol use & abuse
  • More prone to self-mutilating behaviors
  • More prone to suicidal thoughts and ideations
  • Low Self-esteem

Brandon and Leslie

Brandon and Leslie have been dating for 5 months. Brandon is 18 years of age and Leslie is 16. Leslie has had a crush on Brandon since junior high school, when he asked her out she thought all of her prayers to get Brandon to notice her have been answered. To Leslie, Brandon was the perfect guy, i.e., he played for the football team, would likely get a scholarship to college, he was handsome, sweet, funny, and the life of a party.

According to Leslie the relationship started out “great”, but after 3 months it slowly began to become increasing violent. The first incident occurred when Brandon became enraged because he felt the skirt Leslie was wearing was too short. He demanded she take off the skirt she was wearing and “put on something else”. Thinking Brandon couldn’t possibly be serious, Leslie attempted to leave her parents apartment with Brandon to attend a friend’s party. Grabbing her by the throat he shoved her back into the apartment and demanded she do as she was told before she ran the risk of angering him further.

Surprised and scared Leslie raced up the stairs of her parent’s home to change. She returned wearing jeans and a t-shirt to Brandon’s approval. He apologized profusely for chocking her, associating his violent response to an overwhelming need to protect her. Leslie quickly began to experience feelings of guilt, why did she make Brandon so angry, why had she not changed her skirt when he first requested? She also felt privileged, no other guy had loved her enough to want to protect her or became angry when she appeared to be putting herself in harm’s way. This is love, right?