CHICAGO -- One in five high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner, significantly increasing their risk of drug abuse, suicide and other harmful behavior, a study suggests.
The research published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association stems from surveys of 4,163 public school students in Massachusetts, but the authors say the results likely apply to teens nationwide.
According to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 percent of high school students are victims of nonsexual dating violence, with girls slightly more likely to report being victims.
The results also mirror domestic violence rates among adult women, although some statistics indicate young women and teens are especially prone, perhaps in part because they generally have more dating partners.
The study also suggests that a disturbing number of adolescent boys "have adopted attitudes that men are entitled to control their girlfriends through violence," said lead author Jay G. Silverman of Harvard University's School of Public Health.
The study was based on results of statewide surveys given to students in grades nine through 12 in 1997 and 1999. More than 70 percent of the girls who participated were white, about 10 percent were Hispanic and about 6 percent each were black or Asian.
Participants were asked if they'd ever been shoved, slapped, hit or forced into any sexual activity, including rape, by a date. They also were asked about recent risky behavior. Victimized girls were:
-- About eight to nine times more likely to have attempted suicide in the previous year.
-- Four to six times more likely to have ever been pregnant.
-- Three to five times more likely to have ever used cocaine.
-- Three to four times more likely to have used unhealthy dieting methods such as laxatives or vomiting.
The data don't indicate whether date violence is a cause of teens engaging in unhealthy behaviors or whether already troubled girls are more likely to date violent partners.
Silverman said some of the statistics and previous research suggest the violence likely preceded the unhealthy behavior.
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