Impacts of teen dating violence on adulthood
Intimate partner violence during in teenage relationships can affect individuals throughout their whole lives.
Teen dating violence and adverse childhood experiences
It’s easy to discount teen relationships and dating as “puppy love,” but it’s important to remember that this is also a serious developmental phase in a young person’s life. If a child or teen experiences intimate partner violence or sexual violence, it can be classified as an “adverse childhood experience.”
According to the CDC, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) are defined as potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. ACES can have many long term effects on people who experience them.
In their recommendations on ACES prevention, the CDC points to a child’s teenage years as an inflection point in developing behavioral patterns that can result in violence. “Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name-calling, are a ‘normal’ part of a relationship, but these behaviors can become abusive and develop into serious forms of violence.”
For example, the Erin Levitas Foundation is investing in our “Teacher Talk” training to help teachers and professionals who work with young people learn how to identify and respond to sexual harassment before it evolves into violence like sexual assault and rape.
SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences: Leveraging the Best Available Evidence. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Potential effects of unhealthy teen dating relationships
In addition to the list of consequences of being exposed to ACEs in the chart above, there can also be short- and long-term effects on developing teens. According to the CDC: “Youth who are victims of teen dating violence are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, engage in unhealthy behaviors, like using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol, exhibit antisocial behaviors like lying, theft, bullying, or hitting, and think about suicide.”
Sadly, violence during teenage relationships often “sets the stage for problems in future relationships including intimate partner violence and sexual violence perpetration and/or victimization throughout life,” says the CDC.
Hurt people, hurt people.
In sexual assault prevention work, it’s also important to recognize that those impacted by harm are more likely to cause harm to others. When we say that we’re working to prevent sexual assault, we realize that a part of our work also lies in interrupting cycles of violence so less survivors become perpetrators because of their trauma.
Teen dating and escalation: Why teen relationships matter
The CDC notes that partner violence in adolescence can be a precursor or risk factor for partner violence in adulthood. Experience with other forms of violence puts people at risk for perpetrating and experiencing intimate partner violence.
For example, children who are exposed to intimate partner violence between their parents or caregivers are more likely to perpetrate or experience intimate partner violence, as are individuals who experience abuse or neglect as children.
Additionally, adolescents who engage in bullying or peer violence are more likely to perpetrate intimate partner violence.
Resources for teens experiencing dating and intimate partner violence
Hotlines teens can call to speak with with trained listeners and advocates:
House of Ruth Maryland 24-Hour Hotline: 410-889-7884
National Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
LGBT National Help Center National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564 or National Youth Talkline 1-800-246-7743
Live chats with trained responders :
Sources for this page
- Rosado, Lourdes, The Pathways to Youth Violence; How Child Maltreatment and Other Risk Factors Lead Children to Chronically Aggressive Behavior. 2000. American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences: Leveraging the Best Available Evidence. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention