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What Are Some Protective Factors Against Dating Violence?

by Lauren Mills

Dating violence is a significant and often hidden public health problem. This type of intimate partner violence includes physical abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, sexual abuse, stalking and controlling behavior. The Centers for Disease Control reports that in their 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, nearly 10 percent of high school students experienced dating violence in the year preceding the study. More than one-fifth of college undergraduates experience such violence, according to the results of a Clute Institute study published in 2013.

Family Protective Factors

While much of the research on this topic focuses on young women, dating violence can happen to anyone at any age. Protective factors are attributes or resources that help decrease the risk for negative interactions with others and society. Families play an important role by providing close relationships and a supportive environment. In a study published in the "Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology" in 2003, researchers reported that parental supervision is a protective factor against dating violence.

School and Peer Protective Factors

Schools and peer relationships may play a role in mitigating the risk factors for dating violence. According to a 2003 report in the "Journal of Family Violence," high levels of academic achievement and feeling connected to school are protective factors against dating victimization. School connectedness occurs when youth trust that educators and adults care about their well-being. Involvement in school activities can provide an opportunity for positive peer relationships. Researchers found youth were less likely to engage in violent behavior when they had peers who disapproved of anti-social behaviors, in a study published in the "Journal of Adolescent Health" in 2010.

Community Protective Factors

Communities and neighborhoods shape the social context in which people form relationships. Witnessing community violence is associated with greater risk for dating violence, note researchers in a 1997 study published in the "Journal of Adolescent Health." Exposure to weapons and violent injury in the community was a consistent predictor of both dating violence perpetration and victimization. This suggests that communities may be able to act as protective factors by supporting violence prevention efforts.

Getting Help

Dating violence can cause lasting psychological and emotional consequences. If you know individuals involved in unhealthy or abusive relationships, encourage them to seek help. If you experience abuse in a relationship, get help immediately. Taking steps to get help can be difficult, but remember it’s not your fault. Reach out to a trusted adult or helpline.

About the Author

Lauren Mills, L.C.S.W. is a licensed psychotherapist and mental health writer with a private practice based in New York City. She has extensive experience providing psychotherapy to children, adolescents, adults and families. She holds a Masters of Science in clinical social work from Columbia University.

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