*The following is excerpted from an online article from USA Today.
Twenty-one percent of high school girls have been physically or sexually assaulted by someone they dated -- a figure twice as high as previously estimated, a new study shows.
Ten percent of high school boys also report having been physically or sexually assaulted by a dating partner, about the same rate reported in earlier surveys, according to a study led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in JAMA Pediatrics.
Teens who have experienced dating violence are at much higher risk for a variety of serious problems. For example, they're more than twice as likely as others to consider suicide. Boys who have faced dating violence are nearly four times as likely to have been bullied online; girls are more than twice as likely.
Boys and girls who have been victims of dating violence are more likely to get into fights, carry a weapon, use alcohol, use marijuana or cocaine and have sex with multiple partners the study says.
Researchers don't know if any of these events causes the others, however. While it's possible that dating violence could cause thoughts of suicide, it's also possible that children who are depressed are more likely than others to fall into abusive relationships, says Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston who was not involved in the new study.
Assaults by romantic partners often aren't isolated events. Many teens reported being assaulted multiple times, according to the study, based on the CDC's Youth Behavior Risk Surveillance System using questionnaires answered by more than 13,000 high school students.
"If a parent is concerned that a child is in an unhealthy relationship, they need to address it, but do it in a way that doesn't make the child shut down," said Spinks-Franklin. "They need to feel safe telling a parent."
"This study makes it even more important for parents to ask lots of questions and get to know their teen's friends and significant others, and not ignore anything that makes them uncomfortable," says Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital. "They also shouldn't ignore any changes in their teen's behavior."