As a parent and a grandparent, I am concerned about the increasing news about teen dating violence. This was not a topic that was talked about when I was growing up or when my own children were dating. But it is a topic that a parent of a teen needs to be aware and understand what some of the warning signs may be. A search on the internet turned up a lot of articles about teen dating violence and some of those articles were drawing links between teen dating violence and the increase in school shootings. As a parent, we need to know what our children’s world is like as it is not the same world that we grew up in.

The first thing to understand about teen dating violence is what it is and how common is it. This is a growing problem in the United States and about one-third of all teens involved in a romantic violence will experience abuse of some kind. [1] As parents, we need to think beyond the first images of abuse. Abuse is more than just physical violence. It includes sexual abuse and emotional abuse, which is the hardest to detect.  In July 2011, a study conducted by Priscilla Offenhauer and Alice Buchalter on teen violence stated that emotional abuse is the most common form with 76% of teen reporting teen dating violence.[2]

Since emotional abuse is the most common form of teen dating violence, as parents, we need to understand what it is and how to recognize some warning signs. Emotional abuse is “form of controlling behavior that involves subjecting another person to behavior that causes a diminished ‘sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.’”[3] Emotional abuse includes isolation, verbal abuse, and embarrassment. It is easy a parent to discount emotional abuse as a just part of growing up or the way people get along, but the psychological effects of emotional abuse can cause as much damage as physical abuse.

There are warning signs that a parent should be able to recognize if a teen is experiencing teen dating violence. The signs include withdrawing interest from ordinary activities, unexpected or unexplained mood swings, demonstrated fear of upsetting their partner, reluctance to do any activity without their partner in fear of retribution, or self-harming or suicidal behaviors. If you recognize some of these signs or other behavior changes in your teen, then set aside to talk with them. Understand that if your teen has a strained relationship with you as a parent, your teen may not be willing to speak about the difficulties in the dating relationship. If this is the case, ask a family member or friend to speak with your teen. As a parent, you should convey to your teen that you are concerned for their safety, both physically and emotionally.

If your teen has been involved in a relationship with teen dating violence and you are not sure where to turn or how to help your teen, go to www.teendvmonth.org/resources/. If you need legal assistance, call us today for a compassionate team to help both you and your teen take control back.


[1] “Most Teens Suffer Emotional Abuse in Their Relationships”, https://www.teendvmonth.org/teens-suffer-emotional-abuse-relationships/ accessed 2/21/2019 written May 30, 2018

[2] Priscilla Offenhauer, Alice Buchalter; Teen Dating Violence: A Literature Review and Annotated Bibliography  https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/235368.pdf accessed 2/21/2019

[3] Most Teens Suffer

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