WASHINGTON – The economic problems of many families may be creating an increase in teen dating violence,according to a survey released Wednesday.
The study,produced by Teen Research Unlimited for Liz Claiborne Inc. and the Family Violence Prevention Fund,looked at the prevalence of teen dating violence,as well as parental awareness and the effect of the economy.
This is the first year the survey has focused on the relationship between the economy and violence,although the group has surveyed teens about abuse in their relationships since 2000.
The online survey was taken by 1,233 boys and girls ages 13 to 18 and by 500 parents of teens from April 10 to May 5. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points for the teens and plus or minus 4.4 percentage points for the parents.
Among teenagers whose parents have experienced financial problems,44 percent said they had seen their parents engage in violent or abusive behavior with each other. Of those,67 percent said they had experienced violence in their own relationships.
At a news conference,psychologist Ruth Zitner linked the economic downturn to an increase in dating abuse,saying that parents' financial problems has made them more likely to fight about money in front of their children.
“Parents model what is acceptable and what isn't acceptable in an intimate relationship,” she said.
Economic problems could limit the amount of financial resource a family devotes to activities that could teach the children how to have healthy relationships,Zitner said. Parents who are stressed may also focus less attention on their children.
According to the survey results,nearly one-third of teenagers said they had been the victim of either physical or sexual abuse or threats of abuse from a significant other. Nearly half said their boyfriends or girlfriends had been controlling or pressured them to do things they did not want to do.
In 2008,60 percent of teens reported knowing someone who had experienced physical or sexual abuse or been threatened with abuse. In comparison,22 percent of teens in 2005 and 24 percent in 2000 said they knew someone who had been physically abused.
Monique Betty, 19,of Pocatello,Idaho,spoke about her experience with teen dating abuse and stressed the importance of education.
If she and her family had known the signs of teen abuse,”possibly,maybe,this wouldn't have happened to me,” she said. While more than 80 percent of parents said they would recognize signs of violence,the survey found about 60 percent did not recognize all the signs.
Now a student at Idaho State University,Betty was physically and emotionally abused by her boyfriend from the time she was in seventh grade through her first year of high school. She said he made up false stories about her to alienate her from her friends,shoved her and frequently criticized her appearance.
Betty said many victims are unwilling to discuss the violence with others because they think they can handle the situation on their own or hope to help their abusers.
Esta Soler,founder of the Family Violence Prevention Fund,called teen dating violence a “significant problem in the United States” and said that more parents need to be talking to their children about it.
“We know we can make a difference because we've already made a difference for adults,” Soler said,referring to the effect of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. Soler helped orchestrate a public education campaign about domestic violence shortly after the act's passage.
That act,up for reauthorization next year,provides money to investigate crimes against women and expanded the rights of police and victims.