The 1997 Massachusetts survey was the first to assess lifetime prevalence of violence from dating partners.Also included in the survey were questions regarding substance abuse, sexual risk behavior, unhealthy weight control, pregnancy and suicidality.Data analyses also suggest that girls with a history of physical and sexual dating violence are significantly more likely to engage in substance abuse including binge drinking, cocaine use, and heavy smoking, and in unhealthy weight-control behaviors including the use of diet pills and laxatives.
The ultimate goal of prevention and intervention is to stop dating violence before it begins.
During the preteen and teen years, young people are learning the skills they need to form positive, healthy relationships with others.
The surveys are administered to students in most states every two years in randomly selected public high school classrooms to track the incidence of behaviors that affect adolescent health.
The researchers analyzed the responses of 1,977 adolescent girls in grades nine through twelve from the 1997 survey and of 2,186 girls from the 1999 survey.
The results, which appear in the August 1, 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest that approximately 1 in 5 girls experience physical or sexual dating violence, and that such girls are significantly more likely to engage in other behaviors that pose serious risks to their health.
Data from the 19 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Surveys were analyzed in the study.
The researchers noted that the classroom-level intervention alone was not effective in improving these outcomes.
In addition, students in the school-level intervention were more likely to intend to intervene as bystanders if they witnessed abusive behavior between their peers.
For immediate release: July 31, 2001 Boston, MA -- Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, the Boston University School of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health have conducted the first large-scale study of the prevalence of physical and sexual violence by dating partners against adolescent girls.
The study also examined health risks, such as pregnancy and suicide attempts, associated with a history of such violence.
High school girls who were victims of violence from dating partners were also 4 to 6 times more likely than their non-abused peers to have been pregnant, and 8 to 9 times more likely to have attempted suicide during the previous year.