The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston has received a three-year, nearly $750,000 grant from the United States Office of Justice Programs National Institute of Justice to continue a long-term study on healthy and unhealthy teen dating relationships.
Approximately 25 percent of teens are physically, psychologically or sexually abused by dating partners each year according to Jeff Temple, UTMB assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and principal investigator of the study.
Victims of teen dating violence experience consequences that include acute and chronic mental and physical health problems, delinquency, risky sexual behavior, substance abuse and poor school performance, said Temple.
Retrospective studies indicate that individuals who perpetrate violence and sexual aggression in their adolescent relationships may be at a heightened risk for continuing this behavior in their adult intimate relationships, Temple reports.
“Preventing teen dating violence would not only improve the health and lives of adolescents, but it could also curb the prevalence and consequences of subsequent dating and domestic violence in adult intimate relationships,” said Temple.
“Research-based prevention programs are conspicuously lacking and the factors that increase or decrease the likelihood of adolescents experiencing dating violence are poorly understood. Factors that predict healthy dating relationships are also fairly unknown.”
Temple’s research team previously conducted a study with a large school-based sample of more than 1,000 ethnically and socioeconomically diverse adolescents from multiple school districts in southeast Texas. Participants were recruited and assessed as freshman and sophomore high school students in 2010 with follow-ups in 2011 and 2012.
The new grant will enable Temple’s team to amass additional waves of data that will increase the depth and breadth of the understanding of teen dating relationships and give additional insight into the scope, causes and consequences of teen dating violence.
The new research will follow subjects who began working with Temple’s team as young teenagers, collecting data on how their patterns of dating behavior progress as they move into young adulthood — a period often characterized by major life transitions and stress, including committing to serious romantic relationships, moving away from home, going to college, finding employment and achieving financial independence.
After this new three-year phase is complete, Temple says the results will be invaluable – “six years of rich data covering individuals from young adolescence to young adulthood – from a period characterized by identity development and the beginning of dating to one characterized by identity formation and the establishment of more permanent intimate relationships.”
Temple said he envisions this new research program making an important contribution to the field. He says the hope is that his team’s findings will make possible the development of evidence-based programs that will improve the quality of teenagers’ dating relationships.
“We are so proud to have been given this opportunity to do such important work,” said Temple. “And we look forward to helping to improve the health and quality of life of adolescents and young adults nationwide.”