Photo of: Shari Miller
A new study of 1,430 7th-grade students reveals that many 7th-graders are dating and experiencing physical, psychological and electronic dating violence.
More than one in three (37%) students surveyed report being a victim of psychological dating violence and nearly one in six (15%) report being a victim of physical dating violence.
The study also found that while some attitudes and behaviors associated with increased risk for teen dating violence are pervasive, nearly three-quarters of students surveyed report talking to their parents about dating and teen dating violence. Parent-child communication is considered a protective factor that reduces the risk for teen dating violence.
The study was conducted by RTI International (RTI) on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Blue Shield of California Foundation as part of an independent evaluation of their “Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships (Start Strong)” initiative.
The data released on March 29 is the baseline for this larger evaluation to assess the overall impact of the program. Start Strong is one of the largest initiatives ever funded that targets 11- to 14-year-olds to promote healthy relationships in order to prevent teen dating violence and abuse.
The Start Strong evaluation is one of the few studies, and one of the largest, to look in-depth at the dating relationships of middle school students. Although it is not nationally representative, the study sample included 1,430 7th-grade students from diverse geographical locations.
The study collected data on teen dating violence behaviors, as well as risk and protective factors linked to dating violence, such as gender stereotypes, sexual harassment, the acceptance of teen dating violence and parent-child communication.
“There is limited information on 7th-graders and these data provide important insights into teen dating violence behaviors and risk factors among middle school students,” said Shari Miller, Ph.D., lead researcher from RTI.
“From this study, we are learning that many 7th-graders are already dating and teen dating violence is not happening behind closed doors with so many students in this study witnessing dating violence among their peers,” she said. “While we need to do much more to understand this young age group, our data point to the need for teen dating violence prevention programs in middle school.”
The study findings were announced during a pre-conference institute on teen dating violence prevention in middle school at the 6th National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence at the San Francisco Marriot Marquis, organized by Futures Without Violence. .
For more information and the full study, visit: www.rwjf.org/goto/middleschoolmatters