Expert Commentary

Intimate partner violence and urban female adolescents

2009 study in Maternal and Child Health Journal on high rates of domestic violence against urban female teens.

Because domestic violence frequently goes unreported, police records don’t necessarily indicate its actual prevalence. Consequently, a 2009 study published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal, “Intimate Partner Violence and Health Care-Seeking Patterns Among Female Users of Urban Adolescent Clinics,” looked at medical records to get a better understanding of the level of violence between intimate partners.

The researchers, from Boston University, Harvard, UC Davis and Massachusetts General Hospital, analyzeddata samples collected from five adolescent health clinics based on an anonymous, voluntary survey completed by nearly 500 female patients ages 14 to 20. The clinics’ location in low-income communities eliminated “important barriers to health care faced by adolescents, such as concerns about confidentiality, lack of health insurance, and limited knowledge of the health care system,” the researchers stated.

Major findings include:

  • Among survey participants, the “lifetime and current/recent prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) victimization among adolescent females seeking clinical care” was the following: 25% had experienced a “push, slap, punch, hit, kick, shove” or similar type of direct violence; 32% had experienced “any physical violence victimization ever”; 21% had experienced “any sexual violence victimization ever”; 15% had “received injury (sprain, bruise, cut, broken bone) during fight.”
  • Survey participants were nearly evenly split among Caucasians, African-Americans and Latina Americans. The highest rate of IPV in any form was reported by Caucasians, with 42% having experienced IPV at some point in their lives.
  • A majority of IPV remains unreported and/or unnoticed: “Of participants with a history of IPV, 45% reported being screened for IPV by a doctor or nurse while in an abusive relationship; 21% of those screened while in an abusive relationship reported that they disclosed this abuse to the health care provider.”
  • The top three reasons for not reporting IPV were: “feeling it was none of the provider’s business (34%), embarrassment (32%) [and] fear of partner’s anger (20%).”

“Two in five adolescent females attending adolescent clinics reported ever experiencing physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner,” the researchers state. “The prevalence of IPV in this clinical sample is approximately two-fold higher than estimates from community and school-based samples.”

For more on domestic violence rates across the United States, see data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Tags: gender, youth, medicine, policing

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