Even Seventh-Graders Are Hitting Their Girlfriends (And Boyfriends) (USA)

August 10, 2012
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Domestic violence can start as early as middle school, new research shows.

There’s a lot of data about high school dating violence, but not as much about younger kids. However, middle-schoolers are dating according to a team of researchers from the program Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships, who talked to seventh-graders from eight middle schools in four states. Seventy-five percent of those kids said they’d had a boyfriend or girlfriend at some point, while 37 percent of the kids said they’d been victims of psychological abuse (such as, being forbidden to hang out with their friends), and 15 percent said they’d suffered physical violence.

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Via: stefanolunardi

The kids also subscribed to a lot of gender stereotypes. Two-thirds of them believed in at least one of a list of generalizations about boys and girls, like “girls are always trying to get boys to do what they want them to do,” or “with boyfriends and girlfriends, the boy should be smarter than the girl.” Deborah Gibbs, an expert on child welfare at the Research Triangle Institute, which helped conduct the study, said that these kinds of “rigid and prescriptive” gender beliefs are predictors of who might end up in violent relationship later on — so even kids who hadn’t been involved in abuse were at risk for it.

It’s worth noting that this study didn’t just address violence against girls. Actually, kids tended to see violence against boys as more acceptable — half of students said it would sometimes be okay for a girl to hit her boyfriend, such as if he “makes his girlfriend jealous on purpose.” Only 7 percent said a boy could hit his girlfriend in the same situation.

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