About a third of American youths say they have been victims of dating violence, either physically, sexually or psychologically. But nearly the same amount also said they have been on the offending end, according to new research presented at the American Psychological Association's annual convention on Wednesday.
Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 individuals between the ages of 14 and 20 and found an overlap between reports of victimization and perpetration. Of the girls surveyed, 41 percent said they had been victims of dating violence, but 35 percent said they had committed dating violence at some point. The divide was slightly greater for boys, with 37 percent saying they had been victims of dating violence and 29 percent saying they had been the perpetrator.
Overall, 24 percent of girls and boys reported being both on the receiving and offending ends in either the same or different relationships.
"These rates of adolescent dating violence are alarming and suggest that dating violence is simply too common among our youth," said researcher Michele Ybarra, of the Center for Innovative Public Health Research, in a statement.
Researchers found that girls were far more likely than boys to report being victims of sexual dating violence, as well as committing physical dating violence. On the other hand, boys more often said they had committed sexual dating violence. Though the rates overall typically increased with age, the findings were consistent across race, ethnicity and income levels.
Ybarra said in the statement that the overlap between victimization and perpetration should play a role in developing prevention programs and that those constructing the programs should not "assume there are distinct victims and perpetrators."
"We need to think about the dynamics within relationships that may result in someone both perpetrating and being victimized by their partner; as well as the extent to which dating abuse may follow a teen from one relationship to another," Ybarra said.
In a separate presentation of new research, Sabina Low of Arizona State University and Dorothy Espelage of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign described research that shows bullying at a younger age can increase dating violence among young Americans in later years.
Low and Espelage studied 625 youths who took surveys six times, duringthe course of five years from middle school through high school. They found that those who reported higher levels of bullying in the earlier surveys were seven times more likely to report being physically violent in relationships at the conclusion of the study.
"These findings indicate that bully prevention needs to start early in order to prevent the transmission of violence in dating relationships," Espelage said in a statement.