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Teen dating violence strong predictor of future abuse


Deinera Exner-Cortens

Teens who experience physical or psychological violence in their adolescent dating relationships have a significantly greater risk of suffering abuse in their future adult romantic relationships. A new study, led by University of Calgary, Faculty of Social Work researcher Deinera Exner-Cortens, PhD, has isolated dating violence as a strong predictor that someone will suffer future abuse, even when victimized individuals were compared to others with similar backgrounds but who did not experience dating violence.

Exner-Cortens completed this research as a doctoral student at Cornell, working with John Eckenrode (BCTR associate director and professor of human development), who is also a co-author on the article.

Domestic violence takes a huge toll on the health and well-being of victims and families. Studies have shown that intimate partner violence against women has an estimated societal cost of $5.8 billion. In this light, Exner-Cortens says her study is a wake-up call that adolescent dating violence needs to be taken more seriously.

“When I talk to adolescents, they may not recognize that what they’re experiencing is dating violence,” says Exner-Cortens. “For a lot of them, it's their very first encounter in a romantic setting, so they may not know that it's not healthy. So, from a primary prevention – or stopping it before it starts – standpoint, we want to be communicating healthy relationships messages to adolescents. That you have a right to be safe in your relationship, and if a partner ever makes you feel unsafe or hurts you, that's not okay, and you have a right to leave, and to seek help.”

Exner-Cortens’ study, recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, is the first to demonstrate, in a U.S. national sample, that adolescent dating violence is uniquely implicated in a cycle of violence from adolescence to adulthood, even when comparing teens who were matched on key risk factors at the socio-demographic, individual, family, peer, school and community levels.

“For a long time adolescent romantic relationships weren’t a focus in research because people thought that they didn’t really matter for well-being,” explains Exner-Cortens. “This study strongly demonstrates that violence first experienced in adolescent relationships may become chronic, and that adolescent dating violence is an important risk factor for adult partner violence.”

Exner-Cortens and colleagues analyzed a sample of 2,161 American male and female heterosexual youth from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Participants were first interviewed about their dating experiences when they were ages 12-18, and then again five, and 12 years later. To measure dating violence, participants were asked if a partner had ever used insults, name-calling or disrespect in front of others; sworn at them; threatened them with violence; pushed or shoved them; or thrown objects that could hurt. Over a one-year period, about 19 per cent of teen respondents reported dating violence.

Five years after they were first victimized, female victims of adolescent dating violence had almost 1.5 times greater risk for experiencing physical adult intimate partner violence, and male victims had almost twice the risk for experiencing adult intimate partner violence. Individuals who reported intimate partner violence five years after dating violence victimization were also more likely to report intimate partner violence victimization during the twelve-year follow-up. These findings were all in comparison to a group who did not experience dating violence, but who were otherwise very similar in terms of risk history to dating violence victims. Variables used to create this well-matched comparison group included known predictors of adult intimate partner violence, such as child maltreatment, substance use and mental health.

“This is the first study to show that even when we get rid of many other confounding factors, dating violence still emerges as a predictor,” says Exner-Cortens. “Something is happening in those relationships over and above other things that would predict risk. Dating violence appears to set off some sort of cycle in terms of interpersonal violence.”

Exner-Cortens is calling for improved screening for adolescent dating violence in health-care settings, as well as the need for intervention programs for teens who have experienced abuse in their dating relationships. Programs that prevent adolescent dating violence before it starts are also key to intimate partner violence prevention.

Study co-authors are John Eckenrode (Cornell University), John Bunge (Cornell University) and Emily Rothman (Boston University). The research was supported by funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.


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Gaps in evidence: Gun violence in America

"News stories about the problem of gun violence in America have dominated media outlets across the country over the past year. The tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut continues to fuel an on-going debate about the laws surrounding violence and safety in our society. It’s a sensitive subject, and many people across the nation hold opposing viewpoints about what should be done. But one thing is clear: gun violence is a critical public health problem."

Read the rest of this post over on the BCTR's Evidence-Based Living blog:

Gaps in evidence: Gun violence in America

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Boston Globe quotes Exner-Cortens on teen dating violence

An April 1 article in the Boston Globe outlines the need for better conversations with teens about dating violence. As the author points out, most parents are knowledgeable about and talk to their children about drinking, drugs, and sex, but dating violence is not yet on the list of essential conversations.

The Globe contacted Deinera Exner-Cortens for comment as her results from her research on teen dating violence were recently published in the journal Pediatrics as Longitudinal Associations Between Teen Dating Violence Victimization and Adverse Health Outcomes.

Exner-Cortens is quoted in the Globe article, saying,

A teenager’s first romantic relationship plays a critical role in helping an adolescent develop a sense of who he or she is — personally and sexually…If a teen’s first intimate relationship is abusive, it may skew what his or her view of what a healthy relationship looks like.

When teen dating turns dangerous - Boston Globe

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BCTR study links teen dating violence to future harmful effects

Exner-Cortens and Eckenrode

Doctoral student Deinera Exner-Cortens and co-authors BCTR director John Eckenrode and Emily Rothman (Boston University School of Public Health) recently published a paper demonstrating that the consequences of teen dating violence are multiple adverse health affects in later life. Longitudinal Associations Between Teen Dating Violence Victimization and Adverse Health Outcomes was published online on December 10, 2012 by the journal Pediatrics.

In a Cornell Chronicle article on the paper, Exner-Cortens says,

Teens are experiencing their first romantic relationships, so it could be that aggressive relationships are skewing their view of what's normal and healthy and putting them on a trajectory for future victimization. In this regard, we found evidence that teen relationships can matter a great deal over the long run.

This is the first longitudinal study of a nationally representative sample to show connections between teen dating violence and later negative health outcomes in young adults.

Exner-Cortens gave interviews to the following:

USA Today

MSN Health Day



US News & World Report

Cornell Chronicle

And, the following have written articles on the findings:

Pediatrics blog

MedPage Today

ThinkProgress Health


RTT News

Daily RX

News Channel 9 - Syracuse, NY

ENews Forest Park - Illinois

Today's THV

Youth Today

Examiner - video

Outcome Magazine

ABC 13 - Toledo, OH

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Talks at Twelve: Ann Marie White, Thursday, December 6, 2012


Preparing to Work with Systems and Stakeholders to Prevent Violence and Suicide
Ann Marie White, Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Rochester

Thursday, December 6, 2012
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room

Lunch will be served. This event is open to all.

Fundamental factors at individual, relational, community and societal levels contribute to violence and suicide. Identifying, mitigating or preventing such ‘common risks’ is a key nexus for public health and prevention approaches. However, this extant literature is less instructive of ‘where to begin’ prevention initiatives – and says little about who or how communities experiencing these factors are to develop and lead in these areas.

Fostering academic-community partnerships that employ community-based participatory research as well as systems science methods is a critical direction of prevention research. Mobilization of stakeholder systems can generate far reaching, network-based intervention models within community members’ means to implement.

Methods of devising, testing and sustaining population-level, community-based and -led approaches (beyond formal health care and led by those affected), that employ some social network intervention (e.g., spread of information through a group), are underdeveloped. New directions in these methods for violence prevention are the focus of this talk.

Dr. Ann Marie White is Director of the Office of Mental Health Promotion (OMHP) and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center. She leads department-level change initiatives to deepen Psychiatry’s community engagement via service, education and research. OMHP oversees community, consumer and diversity affairs for Psychiatry faculty and staff. Dr. White directs local and national training activities in collaborative research to infuse scientific inquiries with mental health-related policy and program activities of communities. developed participatory research with volunteer “natural helpers” seeking to strengthen urban neighborhoods’ violence prevention activities and conducts multimedia education to develop civic engagement among youth and young adults from traditionally disadvantaged backgrounds. Her research interests focus on successful transitions into adulthood. Her 10+ years of research experiences in developmental psychology emphasized the role of community settings such as childcare, arts centers and after-school programs in the development of children and adolescents. Upon completion of her doctorate in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, she was a AAAS/SRCD fellow in the U.S. Senate and the National Institutes of Health.

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Talks at Twelve: Deinera Exner-Cortens, Thursday, May 10, 2012


"Why Would You Wanna Be in a Relationship Like That When You Could Be in a Healthy One?": A Qualitative Investigation of Adolescents’ Beliefs about Dating Violence and Aggression
Deinera Exner-Cortens, graduate student, Human Development

Thursday, May 10, 2012
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room.

In order to investigate the importance of contexts in aggressive interactions, this study examined adolescents’ thoughts on violence and aggression in dating relationships. High school students in Ithaca, NY in grades 9-12 (n=21) participated in a 40-minute semi-structured interview, and were asked for their thoughts on dating, dating violence and psychological aggression in dating relationships. Five main themes emerged from this analysis, as well as a list of 13 actions that the participants felt constituted psychological aggression. Actions listed by males and females in the sample differed in both frequency and perceived severity. In her talk, Deinera will discuss the findings from this study that support efforts to include assessments of context in studies of dating violence, and the application of this work to future research.

Deinera Exner-Cortens is a third year doctoral candidate in Human Development. She holds an MPH in Social and Behavioral Science from Boston University (2009), and a BSc in Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology from the University of Calgary (2007). Deinera's research focuses on understanding interpersonal violence in intimate relationships. Past and current projects in this area include media framing of domestic homicides in Botswana, intimate partner violence in the lives of Canadian Aboriginal women, prevalence of sexual violence in gay, lesbian and bisexual populations in the United States, longitudinal outcomes of teen dating violence victimization and the evaluation of a campus-based sexual violence prevention program. Currently, Deinera is working on her doctoral dissertation, which focuses on teen dating violence. The goal of this project is to provide practitioners with an improved understanding of how psychological aggression is used in teen dating relationships, as well as to highlight how depression and substance use may contribute to risk for re-victimization. Upon completion of her doctoral degree, Deinera plans to return to Canada, where she hopes to work in the public sector as an applied researcher.

Lunch will be served. This talk is open to all.  Metered parking is available across Plantations Rd. in The Plantations lot.

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BCTR Translational Research Colloquium, Tuesday, February 19, 2019

2011 BCTR Colloquium View Media

BCTR Translational Research Colloquium

Developmental-Ecological Understanding of Middle-School Violence Prevention
October 3, 2011

Patrick H. Tolan
Center to Promote Effective Youth Development, University of Virginia

Developmental-Ecological Understanding of Middle-School Violence Prevention
October 3, 2011

Patrick H. Tolan
Center to Promote Effective Youth Development, University of Virginia

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: Patrick Tolan    prevention    Translational Research Colloquium    video    violence