In an effort to better understand the relationships between dating violence and risk behaviors, including substance use, researchers in Belgium analyzed survey responses from 466 participants, who were 16 to 22 years old (mean age 17.8 years) and were in a relationship. The data came from a larger effort, called the Teen Digital Dating Survey. Adolescents who consume alcohol at a younger age, use marijuana or were involved in vandalism had a higher probability of becoming victims of dating violence than those not involved in those behaviors, the researchers found. Additionally, they linked dating violence victimization and symptoms of depression and low self-esteem. The researchers used logistic regression analyses to assess the associations between well-being, risk behaviors and dating violence victimization. They controlled for gender, age and whether the respondent lived with his or her parents. In the six months prior to the survey, 23 percent of the adolescents surveyed were victims of dating violence. The researchers point out that dating-violence victimization has been found to predict subsequent substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors, fighting, antisocial behaviors, depression and suicide. The findings in this study departed from previous research in that alcohol use at a young age was linked with a higher risk of victimization but no other associations between alcohol use and victimization were found.
Take away: In their discussion, the researchers suggest that knowledge of connections between dating violence and risk behaviors including drug and alcohol use, can be used to help young people in both prevention and intervention efforts. Those who have used alcohol at a young age or who use marijuana could be at higher risk for sexual assault and other violence.
Van Ouytsel J, Ponnet K, Walrave M (2017) The associations of adolescents’ dating violence victimization, well-being and engagement in risk behaviors, Journal of Adolescence, 55, 66-71