Researchers surveyed nearly 4,100 teens, aged 14 to 20, who came to a suburban ER and found that one in five girls and one in eight boys reported dating violence in the past year, according to the study published online June 29 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
"An enormous number of youth and adolescents have already experienced violence in their dating lives," study author Dr. Vijay Singh, of the University of Michigan Injury Center and Department of Emergency Medicine, said in a journal news release.
"Patterns that begin in adolescence can carry over to adulthood. Screening and intervention among youth with a history of dating violence can be critical to reducing future adult intimate partner violence," Singh explained.
"With this many youth and adolescents experiencing either dating victimization or dating aggression, it's dangerously easy for the behavior to become 'normalized,'" Singh noted.
Violent acts suffered by teens are called dating victimization, and violent acts committed by teens are called dating aggression. Nearly 11 percent of girls and 12 percent of boys reported dating victimization and nearly 15 percent of girls and 5 percent of boys reported dating aggression.
Nearly three-quarters of the teens in the study were white, about 87 percent were in school, and nearly 26 percent received public assistance, according to the study.
Factors associated with dating violence include being black, alcohol and drug use, and depression. The investigators also found that girls who reported dating violence were more likely to be on public assistance, to have poor school grades, and to have been treated at an ER in the past year for a violence-related injury.
"Simply treating the injury and not assessing for dating violence loses an opportunity for injury prevention and breaking the cycle of violence," Singh said.
And because black teens experienced greater odds of dating violence than their white peers, "culturally tailored interventions will be essential," Singh added.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about teen dating violence.