Commentary Search

Basic instinct: teen dating

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jeremy Pallas
  • 6th Medical Group
As a parent, protecting our children is a basic instinct. From teaching them to look both ways before crossing the road, to avoiding a hot stove, we begin educating our children about the dangers of life early on. In a survey of parents, 81 percent admitted that teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don't know if it's an issue. The reality is that one in four adolescents report verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month; unless teenagers and parents are informed of the truth about teen dating violence and dating abuse, the ability to stop its harmful impact is futile.

Seventy-two percent of eighth and ninth graders reportedly date. Parents, educators, coaches and other adult mentors should be prepared to help teens distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships. Often starting with teasing and name calling, dating violence may include physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Physical abuse may involve any intentional use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury-- such as hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking or using a weapon. Emotional abuse may include non-physical behaviors-- such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking. Finally, sexual abuse is any action that impacts a person's ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including rape or coercion.

Teen dating relationships are real, not just fictional stories you may see on the television. It is important that teens recognize and understand what constitutes a healthy relationship. Discuss the10 abusive partner warning signs with your adolescents:
  • Checking your cell phone or email without permission
  • Engaging in constant put-downs
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Explosive temper
  • Exerting financial control
  • Isolating you from family or friends,
  • Mood swings
  • Physically hurting you in any way
  • Possessiveness and telling you what to do.

Realize that some teens may be hesitant to seek help or discuss these concerns with you.

As a parent, trust your instinct to care for children and be open, direct and honest in discussions.

Victims of teen dating violence are more likely to do poorly in school and report binge drinking, suicide attempts and physical fighting. The repercussions of teen dating violence are impossible to ignore, as it impacts not just victims but their families, friends, schools and communities. Take the time to educate yourself and others. For more information, contact the MacDill Family Advocacy Program at 828-9172. Also visit or