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New Study Shows Gender Differences Among Adolescents Participating in Date Violence

Both females and males participate in date violence, according to a new study published in the December issue of Pediatrics.

Females who reported date fighting were more likely than nonfighters to have attempted suicide, to engage in sexual risk behaviors, to have been pregnant, to have experienced forced sex and to have ridden in a car with a drinking driver.

Sexual behaviors, including same sex partners, forced sex and having been threatened with physical violence were associated with date fighting among males, according to the study.

"These data illustrate that risk behaviors often cluster in relation to date violence," said the report''s senior author, Robert H. DuRant, Ph.D., vice-chair for Health Services Research for the Department of Pediatrics at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and director of the Brenner Center for Child and Adolescent Health.

The study involved data collected from 21,297 Vermont students in grades 8 through 12 who participated in the Vermont 1995 Youth Risk Behavior Study. Students were asked if they had been involved in a physical fight during the last 12 months and if they had, whether they had fought with a boyfriend, girlfriend or dating partner. About 1.8 percent of males and 4.2 percent of females reported they had participated in date violence.

"This data shows that patients who are involved in date violence increase the chances that they will be linked to other risk behaviors," said Shelley R. Kreiter, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and first author of the study. "We must address these patterns to help stop the cycle."

The study also showed that males who participated in sex with other males were more likely to be involved in date violence. However, this was not the case with females who reported participating in sex with other females, according to Kreiter.

"There is a great deal of sexual experimentation, including same gender sex, among adolescents," Kreiter said. "These experiences place adolescents at significant risk for victimization and assault. Hopefully, by identifying these adolescents, we can intervene and provide appropriate counseling, thus stopping these violent behaviors, such as forced sex."

"Violence is a learned behavior," DuRant said. "Once you cross the line in a relationship then the expectations change and both the perpetrator and the victim become more likely to accept the violent situation."

Although dating violence frequently begins in adolescence, few studies have focused on date fighting in middle and high school students, Kreiter added.

"These findings are significant in that they indicate that adolescents should undergo screening to determine if they are at risk for date violence," she said.

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