Dating serves as an important developmental milestone as individuals come to understand social and relational goals.For many, dating begins in adolescence, with an estimated 72% of 11- to 14-year-olds dating before age 14 (Teen Research Unlimited, 2008).
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Adolescents living in urban communities or experiencing socioeconomic disadvantages may be exposed to increased levels of family and community violence (Banyard, Cross, & Modecki, 2006; Vézina & Hébert 2007).
Compared with their peers, female and male adolescents with a history of family violence are at a greater risk of dating violence victimization and perpetration, respectively (Laporte, Jiang, Pepler, & Chamberland, 2011).
Peers and media also influence behaviors and attitudes.
Despite the prevalence of dating violence, incidences often go unreported due to a lack of awareness among students as to appropriate dating behaviors.
This phenomenology investigated how adolescents conceptualize and experience dating relationships.
We explored adolescent females’ definitions of healthy and abusive relationships, experiences with unhealthy relationships, and responses to dating violence in order to develop effective strategies to intervene with this population.
Implications for school counseling and mental health counseling practice, training, interventions and future research are discussed.
Keywords: dating violence, adolescent, female, school counseling, mental health counseling, interventions Dating violence, which involves actual or threatened emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse within a dating relationship, has become an increasing concern among counselors working with adolescent populations (Craigen, Sikes, Healey, & Hays, 2009; Hays, Green, Orr, & Flowers, 2007).
There are significant mental, physical and behavioral consequences of adolescent dating violence, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal ideation, poor self-concept, disordered eating, substance use/abuse, risky sexual behavior, and school disengagement (Ackard & Neumark-Sztainer, 2002; Banyard & Cross, 2008; Howard, Beck, Kerr, & Shattuck, 2005; Howard, Wang, & Yan, 2007; Masho & Ahmed, 2007; O’Keefe, 2005; Silverman, Raj, Mucci, & Hathaway, 2001).
Due to the severity of negative health outcomes, it is imperative for counselors to understand the experiences of adolescents to facilitate early intervention with this at risk population (Hays et al., 2007).
Few studies have given voice to the individuals themselves.