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Boys and dating violence

October 15, 2008 |  1:21 pm

We think we know who they are, these teenage boys who abuse their girlfriends. But despite multiple studies on the consequences of dating violence for girls, researchers know little about the factors that lead a boy to hurt a girl. Researchers have known that as many as one in three teens reports Violence2 experiencing violence in a dating situation, and teen boys who are violent in dating relationships are likely to be substance abusers, or to have traditional attitudes toward females, like that girls should do what they're told.

A new study, appearing online in the September American Journal of Men's Health, looked a little further into the lives of violent boys. And they found some common themes.

"The themes that often came up in interviews included problematic home environments, inadequate support at school, community contexts characterized by violence and peer interactions that encourage the sexual maltreatment of girls," lead author Elizabeth Miller said in a news release. "The findings of our study suggest that it will not be effective to focus on the influence of one of these contexts alone."

She is now doing research on a practical application of changing violent behavior called Coaching Boys into Men, sponsored by the Family Violence Prevention Fund, which is establishing such a program in Sacramento, near the UC Davis Children's Hospital, where she is a professor of pediatrics. Violence prevention, she says, has to meet teens literally in the places where they hang out.

-- Susan Brink

Illustration credit: Igor Kopelnitsky / For The Times