One in three young people experience teen dating violence: study

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One in three young Canadians is a victim of teen dating violence, according to a new study from the University of Calgary that surveyed 3,700 teens in grades 9 and 10.


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Posted this week in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study reports Canada’s first nationally representative research on the topic of adolescent dating violence (ADV), drawing on data collected in a large national survey called Health Behavior in School-Aged Children.

“Our findings confirmed what we suspected. More than one in three young people have ADV, and ADV is a serious health problem. It is important that we continue to develop and implement programs for the prevention of ADV, ”said Deinera Exner-Cortens, PhD and assistant professor of psychology at U of C, who was joined by academics. from Queen’s University to conduct the study.

ADV is defined as aggressive behaviors that are physical, sexual, and psychological, as well as dating stalking and cyber violence, as experienced in romantic relationships in early and mid adolescence. .


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Researchers say ADV incidents are rarely reported to police and victims are at risk of victimization in the future.

But Exner-Cortens said parents can help protect their children from victims by starting important conversations even before they reach adolescence.

“It’s a job that starts early,” she said.

“It’s really important to let your kids know that it’s good to share emotions, whether they’re happy or sad, and that you are always a resource no matter what, that you are always there. “

According to the data, one in five young people experience ADV online, which means parents also need to help their children develop critical thinking skills around social media, she said.

There are also many online resources to help parents, like, which offers tips on healthy social media use, bullying, and assault prevention.


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“For middle-aged to older teens, there is some great advice out there, helping young people develop their media literacy skills and critically assess the information they get online. “

The study also found that rates of violence are highest among marginalized youth, especially those living in poverty and those who identify as non-binary, racialized and new to Canadians.

Researchers say the importance of prevention and equity-focused community interventions are critical to stopping cycles of victimization.

Prevention of ADV is also linked to improving long-term health and well-being. Working with organizations that directly serve diverse communities is the best way to reach parents and vulnerable youth.


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Community-based organizations can also tailor existing violence prevention programs to their populations, added Exner-Cortens.

“Consulting with communities is essential to address violence where it occurs. The current curriculum that includes socio-emotional education is a good start to preventing violence before it happens. We have come a long way, but we also know that we need annual data collection and more resources for marginalized groups, ”she said.

The study results underscore the continued importance of prevention resources currently in place, such as the socio-emotional learning program in elementary grades and healthy relationships programs in middle and high schools, the researchers said.


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Programming being implemented by the Youth Dating Violence Prevention Community of Practice is supported by these findings, which in turn will be shared with all active programs.

Therefore, community programs such as WiseGuyz in Calgary can also explain to new schools why this type of program is needed.

As a result of the study, Exner-Cortens also emphasizes the need for annual data collection with more information on marginalized youth, as this population is currently under-represented in ADV research.

Exner-Cortens was joined by postdoctoral researcher Elizabeth Baker and Wendy Craig, professor in the Department of Psychology at Queen’s University, to study the issue.

Funding for the HBSC data collection was provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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