University of Georgia

Intimate-partner violence among youth linked to other serious problems

University of Georgia researcher Pamela Orpinas

Adolescents who are violent toward their romantic partners are also more likely than peers in nonviolent relationships to think about or attempt suicide, carry a weapon, threaten others with a weapon, and use drugs or alcohol, according to new research from the University of Georgia.

The study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, followed a randomly selected cohort of 588 Georgia students for seven consecutive years as they progressed through middle and high school.

Students in abusive relationships were two to three times likelier than their nonviolent counterparts to attempt suicide. Almost one out of every two reported threatening someone with a weapon.

Violent students also had higher substance-use levels throughout the seven-year study. They reported consuming more marijuana and alcohol, and more instances of getting drunk.

“It’s clear that dating violence is not an isolated event,” said Pamela Orpinas, lead author of the study and professor of health promotion and behavior at UGA’s College of Public Health. “With all the related problems mixed together, you have a very deadly combination.”

“Our research suggests that interventions need to start very early, earlier than sixth grade, with prevention programs that target this complex group of behaviors,” Orpinas said. “Programs targeting just one behavior are less likely to be successful.”