Imagine this: two teens meet, express interest in each other and start dating. The pair spends a lot of time together, but one partner increasingly becomes jealous at any diverted attention away from him or her. For many teens, it is healthy to prefer to spend time with your partner, but a pattern of jealousy can lead to other risks that endanger one or both partners.
Jealousy Increases Violence
Jealousy within teen relationships is a risk factor for dating violence, known as Intimate Partner Violence or Domestic Violence. Dating violence covers a range of abusive activities that occurs between two people in an intimate relationship. These include psychological, verbal, financial, spiritual, emotional, sexual, stalking and physical abuse and targets of all sexual identities and genders. Teens are particularly vulnerable to dating violence because of their lack of experience with relationships and communication skills, according to research finding cited by the National Institute of Justice.
Girls Suffer More
Jealousy that turns into aggressive behavior has a disproportionate effect on teenage females. In 2001, Halpern et al. published findings that female teens in heterosexual relationships are more likely to become injured, sexually assaulted and suffer more emotionally than male peers in an unhealthy relationship. A 2008 study commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc. found that more than one-third of teens reported having a jealous partner who wanted to know where they were and who they were with at all times.
Is Jealousy Natural?
Jeffrey Parker and colleagues, in a study of teen friendships published in 2005, challenged psychologists David Buss and Todd Shackelford's theory that jealousy has evolved as a human emotion because of the different reproductive challenges faced by males and females. Parker et al. observed males and females manifested jealousy in the same way, but that teenagers who are jealous feel more lonely. The jealous teens were aggressive in passive as well as physical ways. The Parker study shows the effects of jealousy within friendships, which are just as important to teens as romantic relationships.
Healthy Relationships are Key
Recommendations of the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey provide an overall picture of how teens can overcome jealous relationships. Key to improving teen relationships is a community response that includes promoting healthy relationships, using positive parenting skills and challenging gender stereotypes that are considered normal, but harmful to the perception of women and girls. Healthy relationships include -- but are not limited to -- a belief in nonviolent resolution, the ability to manage jealous emotions, have trust and a shared commitment that each partner has the autonomy to make decisions.