Almost one-fifth of high-school students admit they physically abused someone they were dating, and those same students were likely to have abused other students and their siblings, a new study finds.
The study provides new details about the links between various types of violence, said study lead author Emily F. Rothman, an associate professor at the Boston University School of Public Health.
"There's a huge overall connection between perpetration of dating violence and the perpetration of other forms of youth violence," she said. "The majority of students who were being violent with their dating partners were generally violent. They weren't selecting their dating partners specifically for violence."
For the study, published in the December issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, the researchers surveyed 1,398 urban high school students at 22 schools in Boston in 2008 and asked if they had physically hurt a girlfriend or boyfriend, sibling or peer within the previous month.
The authors define physical abuse as "pushing, shoving, slapping, hitting, punching, kicking, or choking." Playful aggression was excluded.
More than forty-one percent said they'd physically hurt another kid on at least one occasion the previous month; 31.2 percent reported that they'd physically abused their siblings, and nearly 19 percent said they'd abused their boyfriend, girlfriend, someone they were dating or someone they were simply having sex with.
Among those admitted to dating violence, 9.9 percent reported kicking, hitting, or choking a partner; 17.6 percent said they had shoved or slapped a partner, and 42.8 percent had cursed at or called him or her "fat," "ugly," "stupid" or a similar insult.
Proportionately more girls than boys (27 percent versus 10 percent) reported they'd abused dating partners.
After adjusting for factors including age and specific schools, the researchers found that abuse of dating partners was strongly linked to abuse of other students, especially among boys.