While many adults have become aware of the prevalence of teen dating abuse and violence, few realize that preteen girls (and boys) are also victims -- and that the earlier they become sexually active, the more likely tweens will experience abuse and violence throughout their teen and young adult years.
According to the July 2008 "Tween and Teen Dating Violence and Abuse Study" commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc. and loveisespect.org, The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, tweens involved in relationships with the opposite sex experience significant rates of dating abuse and violence.
For the purposes of this study, the following groups were defined as follows:
Tweens - adolescents age 11-14
Teens - adolecents age 15-18
Parents - adults with a child age 11-14
The survey revealed the following about tween dating violence and abuse:
Tweens who have been in a relationship report peer pressure and emotional and physical abuse.
- 62% know friends and peers who've been verbally abused by a boyfriend/girlfriend.
- 36% know friends and peers who've been pressured by their relationship partner to do something they didn't want to do.
- 20% of 13 and 14-year olds in relationships know friends and peers who've been physically abused (kicked, hit, slapped or punched) by a boyfriend/girlfriend.
Tweens identify abuse as a serious problem but don't know what to do about it.
- 24% say dating abuse and violence is a serious problem among their age group, and 37% say verbal abuse is a problem.
- Only 51% of tweens say they know the warning signs of a bad tween dating relationship, and 54% say they would know what to do if a friend asked for help.
Tweens who engage in sexual activity are more likely to experience teen dating violence and abuse.
- 69% know say they've experienced one or more types of abuse in a relationship
- 61% have been called names or put down verbally.
- 34% were physically abused .
- 36% were pressured to have oral sex when they didn't want to .
- 34% were pressured into having sexual intercourse when they didn't want to .
In marked contrast, teens who delay sexual activity experience significantly less teen dating violence and abuse.
- 36% have been called names or put down verbally.
- 9% were physically abused .
- 15% were pressured to have oral sex when they didn't want to .
- 15% were pressured into having sexual intercourse when they didn't want to .
Teens and tweens in relationships are most likely to discuss their experiences with friends and parents.
- 67% of tweens in relationships discuss their experiences with friends.
- 67% of tweens in relationships discuss their experiences with their mom.
- 78% of teens discuss their dating relationships with friends .
- 48% of teens discuss their dating relationships with their mom .
Parents who delay talking to their tweens about relationships may find themselves out of the loop later on.
- 70% of parents who haven't talked to their tween say it's because their child is too young.
- 67% of parents say they know 'a lot' or 'everything' about their tween's dating relationship, but only 51% of tweens agree.
- 20% of tweens say their parents know little or nothing about their dating relationships, although only 8% of parents admit that .
- 38% of parents say their tween has been in a relationship, whereas 47% of tweens say that about themselves .
- Only 8% of parents say that their child has 'hooked up' with a partner, versus 17% of tweens who say they've 'hooked up.'
For parents, educators, and other adults concerned by these findings, two factors clearly have impact on the incidence of tween and teen dating abuse:
- Delaying the age at which a teenager first has sex greatly reduces the chances she/he will be involved in abuse.
- Talking to a child very early on about dating, relationships, and sexual behavior -- even before it seems necessary -- is essential to maintaining open communications between parent and child and may reduce the incidence of abuse.
The "Tween and Teen Dating Violence and Abuse Study" was conducted January 2-18, 2008 by TRU (Teenage Research Unlimited) and the survey's findings were released July 8, 2008.