What were you doing when you were 11 years old? Riding bikes? Watching re-runs of the "Andy Griffith show? Maybe you had a crush on a boy or girl at school and were "going with" them? Maybe going to the mall with friends?
A new survey released on February 14, 2008 by CAEPV Member Liz Claiborne Inc. reports that something really sad going on -- a surprising number of young adolescents are experiencing significant levels of dating violence and abuse. One in five children between the ages of 11 and 14 (20%) say their friends are victims of dating violence and nearly half of all tweens in relationships say they know friends who are verbally abused.
Alarmingly, 40% of the youngest tweens, those between the ages of 11 and 12, report that their friends are victims of verbal abuse in relationships and nearly 1 in 10 (9%) say their friends have had sex. (This was not going on when I was 11, I am pretty sure.)
The survey on Tween and Teen dating relationships conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU) and commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc. and the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline explores how relationships among young adolescents are fueling high levels of dating violence and abuse. The data reveals that early sexual experiences can be a precursor to dating violence and abuse among older teens.
For example, among American teens who had sex by age 14, one out of three teens (34%) say they have been physically abused (hit, kicked or choked) by an angry partner compared to 20% of other teens. 69% of teens who had sex before 14 said they had experienced all aspects of dating abuse including verbal, emotional physical and mental abuse. In response to the concerns about teen dating violence and abuse across the United States, the incoming president of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, said that he will introduce a resolution at NAAG's June meeting that will call for the inclusion of curricula on teen dating violence in schools in every state.
New survey results show that dating relationships begin much earlier than expected:
-- Nearly three in four tweens (72%) say boyfriend/girlfriend relationships usually begin at age 14 or younger.
--More than one in three 11-12 year olds (37%) say they have been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.
--62% of tweens who have been in a relationship say they know friends who have been verbally abused (called stupid, worthless, ugly, etc) by a boyfriend/girlfriend.
--Two in five (41%) of tweens who have been in a relationship know friends who have been called names, put down, or insulted via cellphone, IM, social networking sites (such as MySpace and Facebook),etc.
--One in five 13-14 year olds in relationships (20%) say they know friends and peers who have been struck in anger (kicked, hit, slapped, or punched) by a boyfriend or girlfriend
--Only half of all tweens (51%) claim to know the warning signs of a bad/hurtful relationship
Significant numbers of teens (15-18) are experiencing emotional and mental abuse and violence in their dating relationships; this is even more prevalent among teens that have had sex by the age of 14.
--Nearly half of teen girls who have been in a relationship (48%) say they have been victims of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse by their boyfriends.
--More than one in three teens report that their partners wanted to know where they were (36%) and who they were with (37%) all the time.
--Among teens who had sex by age 14, it's much higher (58% and 59%, respectively).
--29% of teens say their boyfriends/girlfriends call them names and put them down, compared to 58% of teens who had sex by age 14.
--22% of teens say they were pressured to do things they did not want to do, compared to 45% of teens who had sex by age 14.
--24% of teens in a relationship said their boyfriends/girlfriends called them stupid, worthless, and ugly compared to 45% of teens who had sex by age 14.
And if you are a parent, and think you know what is going on, it appears you don't. The survey found that:
-- More than three times as many tweens (20%) as parents (6%) admit that parents know little or nothing about the tweens' dating relationships.
-- Twice as many tweens report having "hooked up" with a partner (17%) as parents reported of their own 11-14 year old child (8%).
Here's the "Survey Methodology" for those of you who care about those kinds of things (and I am one of those people):
Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU) was commissioned to conduct quantitative research among tweens (ages 11-14), parents of tweens, and teens (ages 15-18) who have been in a relationship about young dating relationships and the presence/absence of sexual activity and abusive behaviors. TRU independently sampled the three groups and fielded a customized 15-minute survey online to each group from January 2-18, 2008. A total of 2,192 interviews (1,043 tweens, 523 parents, and 626 teens) were completed and processed for analysis. The resulting margin of error (at the 95% confidence level) is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points for tweens in total, plus or minus 3.9 points for parents, and plus or minus 4.1 points for teens.
Loveisrespect.org (the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline) provides resources for teens, parents, friends and family, advocates, government officials, law enforcement officials and the general public. All communication is confidential and anonymous. In the first year of existence, Loveisrespect has received 5,455 calls and 3,026 chats with the most common participant identifying themselves as a "victim/survivor". The Helpline is operated by the National Domestic Violence Hotline and was established through a gift from Liz Claiborne Inc.
Do you notice something interesting here about "loveisrespect"? It received a total of 8,481 "contacts" in its first year -- and 35% of those were not calls, they were "chats." And I happen to know that the chat function is not even on all the time. That means something about the way people of this age group communicate, share information, and get advice -- and it is not always through a phone call. That is why it is SO important that "loveisrespect" is an interactive web-based resource. After all, if you are going to reach an 11 year old, you are not going to reach him or her the same way you are going to reach a 45 year old.
Are you as blown away by the findings of this research as I am? I think it really gives us all pause to think about what is going on in the relationships of our young people -- and bigger picture, how we are all doing in our relationships. How healthy are we? I don't think this is the "pony-tail pulling" of the Andy Griffith days. . .this is something a lot more serious. As young people mimic adult relationships and adult clothing and "adult lifestyles" it seems they also mimic our unhealthy relationships.
I think talking about it in school is great -- but I think talking about it at home is essential. So if you haven't started yet, start now. And if you think it is too early, I hope the survey information above has unfortunately convinced you otherwise.