Socializing and going out on a date are part and parcel of an adolescent’s life and provide them with an opportunity to explore relationships. Though they can be exciting events, however, since teens are young and vulnerable, and emotionally immature, they could come in harm’s way. There have been instances where they end up being subjected to physical or sexual abuse during a date.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), roughly 20.9 percent female high school students and 13.4 percent male high school students reported being physically or sexually assaulted during any given year. While the numbers shed light on the commonality of teen dating violence, a recent research has suggested that girls going through puberty earlier than their peers might be at a higher risk of experiencing abuse as compared to their counterparts who develop puberty later.
Link between advanced pubertal development and adolescent dating abuse
The researchers of the study, titled “Early Puberty, Friendship Group Characteristics, and Dating Abuse in U.S. Girls,” also emphasized that having more male friends made females vulnerable to physical or verbal violence. The researchers in their study, published in the journal Pediatrics in May 2017, tried to examine the link between advanced pubertal development and adolescent dating abuse (ADA).
They evaluated details from a nationally representative sample of 3,870 girls in the age group of 13 to 17 years. The researchers collected and collated the data from surveys that started in 1994. They observed that all the respondents had been through at least one sexual relationship, and nearly two-thirds of them had been only through one.
The researchers inquired from the participants if their partners had ever insulted them or if they had been threatened or abused in public. They also asked the participants if they had been shoved or pushed in public, characteristic of physical violence. The researchers observed that the female respondents who went through puberty earlier were more likely to date and experience such abuse in their existing relationships.
The senior author of the study Sara Jaffee from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia observed that “Girls who make an early transition to puberty look more mature than their later-maturing peers and that makes them attractive to boys, including those who are in their friendship group. Statistically speaking, the more friends they have who are boys, the greater the odds that some of those boys will be abusive in a dating relationship.”
Examining factors affecting dating abuse
Explaining why girls are mostly unable to cope with such misbehavior or the stress that accompanies such violence, Jaffee added that girls reaching puberty sooner were more likely to suffer from lack of self-esteem and depression. This may leave girls with fewer coping skills to storm out of abusive relationships. In addition, being older among the siblings, surviving in low-income families and having participated in antisocial behaviors at the beginning of the research were other factors leading to dating abuse.
Elaborating on how early puberty can influence dating tendencies, Bruce Taylor, a public health researcher at the University of Chicago, not involved in the study, said, “With early puberty onset girls’ bodies are telling them that they are ready for adult-like behavior but developmentally their minds are not ready and are still operating like an adolescent’s brain.”
However, the study had limitations, considering that the observations were based on self-reported information by adolescents regarding their timing of puberty, number of sexual relationships or experiences of abuse.
Seeking timely recovery is important
Early puberty marks the onset of depression and other kinds of emotional disorders in girls. The onset of depression can worsen in case of bad attitude and abuse by boyfriends. In such a situation, timely treatment is the key to happiness. The Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego offers necessary programs for treating teenage depression. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know more about facilities providing treatment for depression in teens.