Friendship as an Antidote to Dating Violence

Author:  Gowda Shilpa

Date:  September 2007

In an article published this past Thursday in BMC Nursing, researchers report that female teens are less likely to be victims of abuse during dating if they have strong support from friends. Dating violence is a serious issue, as it contributes greatly to teen morbidity and mortality, in forms such as substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, early sexual behavior, pregnancy, STDs, and suicide. The findings from the study will help identify female adolescents at risk for dating violence and prevent such violence.

The subjects of the study were twenty-two female adolescents between the ages of 15 and18 years old. The selection of older rather than younger adolescents was due to the need for the study's subjects to have the skills and experience that come with age to better reflect on their own dating experiences. The teenagers participating in the study attended two rural or suburban high schools located in Suffolk and Middlesex counties in Massachusetts.

The researchers interviewed each of the subjects in a private setting during the students' study hall, discussing various aspects of their dating relationships. The participants agreed on seven stages of dating: group meeting, in which one same-sex peer group socially interacted with another peer group that only consisted of the:

1. Group meeting, in which one same-sex peer

group socially interacted with another peer group that only consisted of the opposite sex

2. Talking and exchanging, in which couples acquainted themselves with people outside of their circles of friends

3. Couple-group dating, in which couples went on formal dates with other couples in their social circles and experienced limited physical intimacy

4. Dating outside of their circles of friends, in which the couples typically experienced more physical or emotional intimacy

5. Re-entering their circles of friends as couples, in which the couples had to maintain their roles in their circles of friends in addition to maintaining their own separate relationships

6. Breaking up, in which the couples had to limit their relationships outside of their circles of friends and

7. Reintroducing themselves into their original circles of friends as separate, individual members.

Although the teens agreed on these seven stages of dating, their individual social circles formed their own attitudes about the seriousness of the couples' relationships of each stage and the appropriate level of physical contact. The study found that the risk of abuse within each couple was greatest when the dating relationship did not conform to the expectations of the couple's friends, such as when the friends rejected a dating partner.

Couples were also found to be at high-risk for abuse when they were in stage 4 of their relationship, when couples typically spend more time together alone. During these times of abuse, the study found a correlation between supportive friends and the chance of the couple seeking help for abuse, particularly physical abuse. This correlation has many implications for the wellbeing of teenagers, who often rationalize the abuse they suffer to maintain their relationships with their significant others.

One participant said in her interview during the study, "Like I tell him, [the subject's boyfriend], to stop but [he] doesn't.and [it's] just a joke.he doesn't mean to hurt but he doesn't know his own strength." As shown from this study, a friend could be immensely important in this situation to reframe this girl's perception of her abuse.

Author: Shilpa Gowda

Reviewed by: HoiSee Tsao

Published by: Konrad Sawicki