Teen Dating Violence: What Every Parent Should Know

Would you know if your teen was in an abusive relationship?

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: Teen Dating Violence: What Every Parent Should Know

Written by: Ali Flynn

Recently, while my four teenage daughters were gathered around our kitchen table talking, I began to hear snippets of their conversation. Normally, I sit back quietly and offer them space to hang out and chat about school, friends, boyfriends and life, in general, but this time my ears perked up. 

All four of them were chiming in about how many of their friends were in unhealthy relationships. It wasn’t merely one or two friends, but rather, several people they knew who were deep in the throes of extremely unstable relationships that hovered dangerously close to abusive. 

Considering the fact that, as a family, we’ve always placed a high priority on transparency and honesty when it comes to all subjects – including the subject of dating, how to steer clear of unhealthy relationships and teen dating violence, I wasn’t overly surprised that my girls were quick to identify the warning signs of unhealthy or abusive relationships.

What did strike me, however, was the sheer number of friends that were navigating tumultuous relationships that involved anger, control and fear. 


The harsh reality is, teen dating violence is far more prevalent than most parents realize.

With millions of young women and men affected (even as young as 12 or 13 years of age), the CDC reports that dating violence can take place in person or online and can include:

  • Physical violence When a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.
  • Sexual violence Forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act and or sexual touching when the partner does not or cannot consent. It also includes non-physical sexual behaviors like posting or sharing sexual pictures of a partner without their consent or sexting someone without their consent.
  • Psychological aggression The use of verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm a partner mentally or emotionally and/or exert control over a partner.
  • Stalking A pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone close to the victim.

As a mom in the thick of raising four teen girls (one of whom is miles away at college), the fear of any one of my daughters being involved in an abusive relationship weighs heavy on my mind.

But one thing I know for certain, when you’re parenting teenagers in today’s world, these tough (and often heavy) conversations have to remain part of your narrative to keep your teen safe in the dating world. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s an innocent tween relationship or a more mature college relationship, our teenagers (and young adults) need to have a clear picture in their mind of what a healthy relationship looks like and, more importantly, what an unhealthy relationship looks like with a full understanding of the warnings signs surrounding teen dating violence.

Sure, our teens might avoid the conversation at all costs, roll their eyes, or become embarrassed when we broach the subject, but we have to keep talking. Our teens are listening, even when we question whether they’ve heard a single word we’ve said. 

The bottom line is, the more open and communicative we are with our kids, the better-equipped and more empowered they’ll be as they embark on the world of dating and complex relationships. 

For starters, share these staggering (and scary) statistics with your teen. Statistics provided by Hope’s Door.

Teen Dating Violence: Statistics You May Not Know

  • 1 in 3 high school students will be involved in an abusive relationship prior to graduating.
  • Only 33% of teenagers who have experienced dating abuse chose to tell someone about it.
  • Nearly half of dating college women are likely to experience some form of violent or abusive dating behavior. 
  • Of adult men who experience partner abuse, 15% report that they first experienced some form of partner abuse/violence between 11 and 17 years of age. 
  • Exhibiting signs of jealousy, isolation, intensity (expressing feelings in extreme ways), and monitoring someone’s social media accounts are all warning signs of potential abuse. 
  • Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average. 
  • The Urban Institute reports significantly higher rates of dating violence among LGBTQ+ youth than among non-LGBTQ+ youth.
  • 81% of parents don’t view teen dating violence as a significant issue their teen is facing today. 

Conversation Starters with Your Teenager

For parents who may be reluctant to engage in conversations with their teens about teen violence, or for those parents who perhaps don’t know where to begin, here are a few conversation starters to use as a launchpad for discussion.

  • What do you want in a relationship?
  • What would you do if you witnessed abuse (verbal, physical or psychological) happening to a friend? 
  • Have you ever witnessed verbal, physical or psychological relationship abuse before? How did it make you feel?
  • If you ever felt uncomfortable or felt you were being subjected to any form of physical, verbal or psychological abuse, would you feel comfortable coming to me? Guidance counselor? Clergy? Another trusted adult?

One thing I’ve learned with my own teenagers is to keep it short. Teenagers (most, anyway) don’t respond well to long, drawn-out conversations. Rather than engaging in a long lecture in one sitting, look for ways to drop the subject into conversations periodically. Trust me, your child is listening. 

How Can You Ensure Your Teen’s Safety When Dating?

Because many teens won’t talk with their parents about their dating world, let alone if they’re being subjected to abuse, it’s up to us as parents to keep a watchful eye. Start by understanding the warning signs yourself and then seek out opportunities to see how your teen engages with their boyfriend, girlfriend or partner.

Invite them over for dinner or offer to take them both to lunch. Above all, don’t pass off “red flags” as normal teen dating behavior. As parents, we have to be our child’s protector and lifeline by creating a loving and caring space for them to come to us any time – day or night.

Questions to Help Identify Warnings of Teen Dating Abuse

Does My Teen’s Partner Exhibit These Warning Signs?

  • Puts down or marginalizes my teen’s accomplishments or goals.
  • Isolates my teen from friends and family.
  • Wants to spend every minute with them.
  • Tries to control what they do, say, wear.
  • Tries to confuse or intimidate my teen.
  • Is constantly possessive or jealous.
  • Constantly accuses them of being unfaithful/cheating.
  • Makes them feel as though everything that doesn’t go right in the relationship is their fault.
  • Embarrasses or puts them down in front of friends, family, co-workers. 

Warning signs won’t always be apparent by your teen’s partner. Sometimes, your teen’s actions and behavior when they’re with their partner can speak volumes and offer an identifier that something isn’t right within the relationship.

Does My Teen Act This Way When They’re With Their Partner?

  • Seems apprehensive or scared about how their partner will act or react.
  • Constantly makes excuses to other people for their partner’s behavior.
  • Avoids doing or saying anything that could cause possible conflict in the relationship or make their partner angry.
  • Feels that no matter what they do their partner is never happy with them.
  • Always does what their partner wants to do instead of voicing their own opinion.

Each of these relationship red flags offers opportunities for us to help our teens before the abuse progresses. Stay connected to your teen, remain involved in their lives and their relationships, and keep the lines of communication open and honest. Not only does open discussion empower our kids, but it also helps educate them so they can help their friends see things in their relationships as well. Our teens are relying on us to educate, support, love and protect them on their journey to adulthood. 

If you feel your teen is in an abusive relationship, you and/or your teen can seek help at Hope’s Door, (www.hopesdoorny.org) an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence while empowering victims to achieve safety, independence, and healing from the trauma of abuse.

Contact Hope’s Door: 24/7 Hotline 888-438-8700 (If you have an emergency, always call 911 immediately.)


About Ali Flynn:

Ali Flynn is excited to share with you the joys and hardships of motherhood with an open heart, laughter and some tears. Ali is a monthly guest contributor for Westchester County Moms and has been seen on Filter Free Parents, Grown and Flown, Today Parents, The Mighty, Her View From Home, and His View From Home, where she shares inspirational stories about motherhood while keeping it real. You can also find her on Facebook or Instagram.

If you enjoyed reading, “Teen Dating Violence: What Every Parent Should Know,” you might also enjoy reading:

Blinded by Love: 10 Signs Your Teenager is in an Unhealthy Relationship

50 Things I Want My Son to Know About Teen Girls

50 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Teen Boys

To My Son’s Future Girlfriend, Yes Gentlemen Do Still Exist

Why Not Join Us?
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join over 3.000 visitors who are receiving our newsletter and learn how to optimize your blog for search engines, find free traffic, and monetize your website.
RAISING TEENS TODAY is a resource and safe zone for parents to share the joys, challenges, triumphs and frustrations of raising our oh, so imperfect (but totally awesome) teens. PLUS, sign up and you'll receive my FREE e-Book "Scoring Scholarships!"

You may also like

Leave a Comment