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June 29, 2012
The Perils of Young Romance: Relationship Violence Among Young Adult Couples
Relationship violence is linked with a host of negative outcomes for women and men. Prior research indicates that young adults are at the greatest risk for experiencing violence at the hands of their romantic partners, although the actual prevalence of relationship violence is difficult to assess. Notably, questions about relationship violence are generally only asked of one partner in a relationship, likely underestimating the problem.
Child Trends' latest research brief, Relationship Violence Among Young Adult Couples, used data collected in 2001 from both women and men to examine physical relationship violence and threats of physical violence among heterosexual young adult couples in the U.S. Specifically, our researchers analyzed reports from both partners in married, cohabiting, and longer-term dating relationships to identify relationship characteristics that are linked to violence among young adults. For example, cohabiting young adult couples reported the highest levels of relationship violence (compared with married and dating couples), regardless of other relationship characteristics. (Please recall that, for this study, the term "relationship violence" refers only to physical violence, such as pushing, throwing something, hitting, kicking, or inflicting an injury, and threats of violence).
Relationship violence also tended to be higher among:
· Young adult couples with lower levels of education,
· Young adult couples with children in the household, and
· Young adult married couples in which partners differ by race or ethnicity.
This brief also sheds light on the prevalence of relationship violence among these couples. Overall, Child Trends found that four out of 10 couples in this sample reported some type of physical relationship violence or threats of violence in the past year. This is considerably higher than prior estimates that rely only on the report of one partner rather than accounting for the experiences reported by both partners in a couple.
While this brief focused only on physical violence and threatening behaviors and did not include sexual or emotional violence, it nevertheless breaks new ground by using data collected from both partners in a relationship. As such, it may help identify couples at risk for relationship violence.
Characteristics of Young Adult Sexual Relationships: Diverse, Sometimes Violent, Often Loving
Young Adult Attitudes About Relationships and Marriage: Times May Have Changed, But Expectations Remain High
The Relationship Context of Births Outside of Marriage: The Rise of Cohabitation
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