By David Lee on June 3, 2010 · tagged as ,

Dating violence among 6th grade students

Being a parent of a middle school student has given me a lot ot worry about: drugs, sex and violence.  As a parent, I realize that we must start early if we are to prevent dating violence. Yet, many dating violence prevention efforts address high school students, but the pattern of violence often starts before then.  In an article recently published in the Journal of Early Adolescence, 60% of 6th grade males and 45% of  6th grade females (45.2%)  reported having a boy or girlfriend in previous 3 months. Among those students reporting having a boy/girlfriend, almost 1/3 of girls and more than ¼ of boys reported being physically aggressive toward their boy/girlfriend.

Teen dating violence prevention efforts like Start Strong highlight working with middle school age youth. It seems to me even more important now than ever to start early.

Note: The instrument used to measure the levels of violence was modified from the instrument used to evaluate Safe Dates.  I have trouble reconciling the finding that males are more likely than females to be victimized.  What do you think is going on?

Here is the full citation and link the article on the journal’s web site.

Physical Dating Violence Norms and Behavior Among Sixth-Grade Students From Four U.S. Sites.

Simon TR, Miller S, Gorman-Smith D, Orpinas P, Sullivan T. Journal of Early Adolescence 2010; 30(3): 395-409.

Click here for a link to the article on the journal’s web site.

(Copyright © 2010, Sage Publications)

Relatively little is known about the prevalence of physical dating violence behaviors and perceived norms about dating violence among early adolescents. A sample of 5,404 sixth-grade students was recruited from four diverse U.S. sites. Over half of the respondents reported that girls hitting their boyfriends was acceptable under certain circumstances (e.g., if made mad or jealous) and more than one in four reported acceptance of boys hitting their girlfriends. Among those reporting that they had a recent boy/ girlfriend, nearly one third of girls (31.5%) and more than one fourth of boys (26.4%) reported being physically aggressive toward this person (e.g., punching, slapping). These data support the need to address the problem of violence within students’ perceived dating relationships in sixth grade or earlier and suggest that preventive interventions should focus on changing norms that support violence between males and females.

David Lee

More Posts by David Lee

David S. Lee, MPH, is the Director of Prevention Services at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault where he provides training and technical assistance on prevention. David manages the national project PreventConnect, an online community of violence against women prevention practitioners, funders, researchers and activists. For over 27 years David has worked in efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Rey June 7, 2010 at 10:03 am

This is an interesting study and one that I would like to have a full copy of. To try and answer your last question, is it possible that through self-reporting, boys are less likely to admit that they were physical with a girl? This could be for multiple reasons but two pop in my head. 1 – they didn’t view it as physical violence or “harmful” (but with the whole explanation of the study, it is possible this was explained more before they answered) 2 – they know it is wrong to be violent and didn’t admit it even in anonymous studies.

On the otherhand, when physical violence is viewed as acceptable by girls towards their male partners under certain circumstances, you will find that girls have no problem self reporting this information. We find that girls in our educational programs almost feel empowered by the fact that they smacked or hit their male partner when “they step out of line.” This may account for the findings being very different from what we know about older teens and adult dating/domestic violence.

Our program in Palm Beach County, FL was more accepted in a high school setting but now that we have been successful for 2 years, we are moving towards the middle school level in the fall. We are excited to begin at this younger age because with our secondary prevention programs, it is apparent to us that this IS the more appropriate age group to be doing prevention with.

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Jennifer Rauhouse June 8, 2010 at 11:23 am

Thanx for posting David Lee. This is exactly why we need Primary Prevetion and that everyone must be included in efforts. Regardless of percentages attached to gender, a large number of young people are thinking violence in relationships is normal. These are the underlying conditions we must work to prevent before they occur but when they do occur, we all respond with empathy, compassion and adequate resources for all. This is a world where safety, equality and respect are norms. This is primary prevention. Thank you.

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