A new study sheds light on the pervasiveness of teen dating violence in the United States and why it should not be taken lightly: it can be lethal.
On October 2014, an English teenage boy received a sentence of 25 years in prison after stabbing her girlfriend in the back and dismembering her body afterward.
While this manner of death is likely rare among dating teens, violence is not. Of the 2,000 women killed from 2003 to 2016, 150 of them were teens who lost their lives to intimate partner homicide.
"People think that intimate partner violence among adolescents is less serious than among adults. It's important to highlight that this can really lead to death. It's not something to brush off as 'This is just an argument between kids,'" remarked Avanti Adhia, University of Washington School of Medicine epidemiologist and study author.
Jealousy And Guns
For the study, the author and her colleagues wanted to find out the proportion of teen homicides due to dating violence, the nature of the crime, and the circumstances that surrounded it.
They used the data from the coroners, medical records, and police files across 32 states from 2003 to 2016. Within this period, they identified 2,188 homicides involving people between 11 and 18 years old with a known relationship with their perpetrator.
About 7 percent of these adolescent homicides were classified as IPH. 90 percent of the victims were female, while 77.9 percent of the perpetrators were men who were at least 18 years old.
Only 62 percent of these killers were the intimate partners of the victims during the commission of the crime.
Jealousy was one of the most common reasons for the homicide but so was the perpetrator's desire to establish a relationship with the deceased.
Over 20 percent of the deaths happened while the individuals were in a heated argument. Around 6.7 percent revolved around teen pregnancy, while 12 of the cases were due to the accessibility to firearms. In 24 of the reported incidents, the perpetrator killed themselves after committing the crime.
Almost 40 percent of these homicides happened in the home of the victims, while over 35 percent occurred in an apartment or residence owned by somebody else.
Emotional Imbalance And History Of Abuse
While not included in the scope of the study, the researchers outlined some of the possible explanations for teen homicide.
These may include emotional instability, such as extreme mood swings, and lack of support. Those involved in IPH are often adolescents who have a history of abuse in their family.
Teens who become victims of IPH also often did not approach adults for help. Instead, they tend to reach out to their peers, who, like them, don't have enough social skills or maturity to handle relationship issues such as breakups.
Teen dating violence, especially among women, is not new. A 2015 study revealed they are also likely to be victims of sexual and physical abuse.
This is the first study, however, to highlight the extreme danger of dating abuse among adolescents, which is a homicide.
Besides further exploring the issue, the researchers cited the importance of laws that provide criminal and civil protection for those at risk of IPH. They also push for gun surrender and other legal means to keep the victims safe.
"Programs aimed at adolescents involved in IPV should consider the contexts that may put adolescents at increased risk of homicide," said the study now published in JAMA Pediatrics.