Teen Dating Violence (TDV)

Infographic on the prevalence of teen dating violence. Dating Violence affects many students - 1 in 3 seventh grade students report being a victim of dating violence; 44% of all students have been in an abusive relationship by the time they graduate from college; 1 in 5 college students are currently in an abusive relationship; 38% would not know how to get help on campus if they were in an abusive relationship.
Like domestic violence, teen dating violence is one form of intimate partner violence (IPV). More specifically, teen dating violence (TDV) is the physical, sexual, or psychological / emotional abuse within a dating relationship among adolescents. TDV is more prevalent than many people realize. Approximately 25% of all teens report they have been abused by a partner within the past year. Over 40% of all students in the U.S. will have been in an abusive relationship by the time they graduate from college. (Foshee, et. al., 1996; Forke, et. al., 2008)

About TDV

Infographic on the forms of teen dating violence which are Emotional/Verbal/Psychological (puts you down; tells you what to wear; threatens to hurt themselves; blames you for their actions), Sexual (threatens to reveal private info; does not respect your desire for safe sex; sabotage birth control), and Physical (restraining; hitting; shoving; grabbing; shaking; biting; scratching; throwing things).

Although this problem is called 'teen dating violence' our focus is not just on teenagers but also on tweens (11 and 12 year olds) as well as young adults in their early twenties. Generally, we are focusing on young people ages 11 - 23. Age is an important distinguishing factor for TDV as compared to 'domestic violence' because age is often associated with dating experience and those with relatively little dating experience will have greater difficulty knowing what constitutes normal behavior in a dating relationship. As a result, educating young people about TDV often involves educating them about healthy relationships in order that they become more familiar with what healthy relationships should look like.

Infographic on teen dating violence victims. The Victims - teen dating violence is an equal opportunity problem regardless of gender; regardless of socioeconomic status; regardless of sexual orientation; and regardless of race.

While the physical or sexual forms of abuse in a dating relationship are comparatively easy to define and identify, emotional, verbal, or psychological abuse are less easy because they depend a great deal on context. This nuanced aspect of dating abuse, especially when combined with the relative lack of dating experience, is one reason it can be difficult to teach young people about what is - and what isn't - healthy or acceptable in a dating relationship.

Although young women (ages 16 to 24) experience the highest rates of dating violence, TDV is an "equal opportunity problem," affecting all types of teens around the world regardless of their gender, socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. (Rennison & Welchans, 2000; The National Center for Victims of Crime)

TDV Impacts

Infographic about the impacts of teen dating violence. Teens in abusive relationships are more likely to smoke, binge drink, and use drugs; more likely to feel hopeless and attempt suicide; 4x-6x more likely to become pregnant; and more likely to experience violent relationships as an adult.

Students in abusive relationships are affected both physically and emotionally. Not only do they tend to have lower grades in school but they also show higher incidences of binge drinking, suicide attempts, and violence in future relationships. (Banyard & Cross, 2008; CDC, 2006) Teens in abusive relationships are also at a much higher risk of becoming pregnant than their counterparts with studies indicating that those adolescent girls who experience TDV are 4 to 6 times more likely to become pregnant. (Silverman, et. al., 2001)

Teen Dating Violence References

  • Forke CM, Myers RK, Catallozzi M, Schwarz DF. (2008). Relationship Violence Among Female and Male College Undergraduate Students. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162(7):634–641. doi:10.1001/archpedi.162.7.634
  • Foshee VA, Linder GF, Bauman KE, Langwick, SA, Arriaga, XB, Heath, JL, McMahon, PM & Bangdiwala, S (1996). The Safe Dates project: theoretical basis, evaluation design, and selected baseline findings. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 1996; 12(Suppl 2):39–47.
  • Rennison C.M., Welchans S (2000). BJS Special Report: Intimate Partner Violence. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  • The National Center for Victims of Crime, https://www.ncvc.org/.
  • Silverman, Jay G., Anita Raj, Lorelei A. Mucci, and Jeanne E. Hathaway. Dating Violence Against Adolescent Girls and Associated Substance Use, Unhealthy Weight Control, Sexual Risk Behavior, Pregnancy, and Suicidality. American Medical Association, August 1, 2001; Vol. 286, №5.

Gaming Against Violence

HONEYMOON is one of the serious video games that have come out of the Gaming Against Violence program. Developed by Jennifer Ann's Group, Gaming Against Violence has been producing, publishing, and researching serious video games about serious issues affecting young people since 2008. Over fifty serious games have been produced addressing a variety of topics including consent, gaslighting, and teen dating violence prevention.

The use of bespoke video games to engage, educate, and empower young people about serious issues is an effective strategy. Studies show that these video games are effective at, in addition to other benefits, changing unhealthy attitudes about abusive behavior, increasing knowledge of dating violence, and increasing awareness of teen dating violence.

Published Research

CAVA Study

Changing Attitudes Towards Dating Violence in Adolescents (CAVA), an EU funded project, focused on teen dating violence prevention through "an immersive and engaging video game ... designed to appeal to young people." The resulting video game, developed in 2011, was the first of its kind to be developed in Europe.

Table from CAVA's study showing an overview of lesson aims. learning outcomes, and behavior/attitude change techniques.

The resulting 2014 study from CAVA shares their success in using their intentionally designed video game to change attitudes about abusive behavior with students in the UK, Sweden, Germany, and Belgium. As CAVA discusses in their paper, the interactive nature of digital games is better suited for addressing nuanced issues like emotional or psychological abuse than is non-interactive, static content. This interactive element also supports experiential learning, discovery learning, and context learning. Also, adolescents prefer using computers over traditional methods while learning and digital over other mediums. Additionally, young people appreciate when these preferences were taken into consideration. Student participants in the CAVA study stated "I think people are more likely to listen more instead of just a teacher telling you stuff" and "[i]t doesn't feel like you're on the computer an hour because it's like a game."

Bowen, E. Walker, K. Mawer, M. Holdworth, E. Sorbring, E. Helsing, B. Bolin, A. Leen, E. Held, P. Awouters, V. Jans S. (2014). “It’s like you’re actually playing as yourself”: Development and Preliminary Evaluation of “Green Acres High,” a Serious Game-Based Primary Intervention to Combat Adolescent Dating Violence. Psychosocial Intervention, 23(2014), 43-55.

Erasmus Study

Graphs from 'Playing Against Abuse' study performed at Erasmus University showing less justification of angry behavior and less self-efficacy among the students who played the two video games about teen dating violence as compared to players of the control game.

In comparing two forms of persuasive games from the Gaming Against Violence program intended to prevent teen dating violence, the Erasmus study found that "both persusasive games evaluated showed a clear difference with the control game in the attitudes their respective players held afterwards." Both games showed less acceptance of angry behaviors in dating relationships and also showed lower self-efficacy with respect to dealing with relationship abuse. Although the reason for the reduced self efficacy was beyond the scope of the Erasmus study, one suggested explanation is that through playing these games about teen dating violence the participants had a heightened awareness of the pervasive and serious nature of dating abuse among adolescents.

Jacobs, R.S., Jansz, J., and Kneer, J. (2019). Playing Against Abuse: Effects of Procedural and Narrative Persuasive Games. Journal of Games, Self, & Society, Issue 1. Dunlop, K. & Rivers, S.E. (Eds.) pp. 110-120. doi:10.1184/R1/7857578.v1.

Mechanical Turk Study

From 'Gaming Against Violence: An Exploratory Evaluation through Mechanical Turk of the Efficacy of Persuasive Digital Game in Improving Unhealthy Relationship Attitudes'

An exploratory study utilizing a subset of five serious games from the Gaming Against Violence program was conducted from November 2015 - January 2016 utilizing online participants via Amazon's Mechanical Turk service. The results of this study were promising, showing that those players playing the Gaming Against Violence games with teen dating violence themes showed greater increase on attitudes towards dating violence than did players of the control games unrelated to teen dating violence. The study "was not large enough to distinguish differential efficacy among the teen dating violence prevention games but did lay the groundwork for future studies to further validate the viability of these games as persuasive tools."

Crecente, D., Jacobs, R. S. (2017). Gaming Against Violence: An Exploratory Evaluation through Mechanical Turk of the Efficacy of Persuasive Digital Games in Improving Unhealthy Relationship Attitudes. Games and Learning Alliance 6th International Conference, GALA 2017, Lisbon, Portugal, December 5-7, 2017, Proceedings. Dias, J.; Santos, P.A.; Veltkamp, R.C. (Eds.) pp. 259-262.

Gaming Against Violence White Paper on Teen Dating Violence (TDV)

A white paper created in cooperation with the Violence Prevention task force at IPRCE evaluates the problem of teen dating violence and its impact as well as factors complicating effective prevention. This paper then illustrates how serious video games such as those from the Gaming Against Violence program can be used to effectively overcome these complications in order to prevent teen dating violence.

Crecente, D. (2019). Gaming Against Violence White Paper on Teen Dating Violence (TDV). TDV Video Games: Proposed Use and Call for Further Research

Gaming Against Violence: A Grassroots Approach to Teen Dating Violence

Program Profile: Teen dating violence is a pervasive problem that affects millions of adolescents worldwide. Although there have been various approaches to addressing this problem, using videogames had not been employed before 2008, when Jennifer Ann's Group, an Atlanta, GA–based nonprofit organization, created an annual competition. The Life.Love. Game Design Challenge rewards game developers for creating videogames about teen dating violence without using any violence in the games themselves. The resulting videogames have increased awareness about teen dating violence and provided educational information to assist adolescents, parents, and teachers in identifying abusive relationships.

Crecente, D., (2014). Gaming Against Violence: A Grassroots Approach to Teen Dating Violence. Games for Health Journal, Vol. 3, No. 4. pp. 198-201.

Select Quotes about HONEYMOON from Educators

The follow are quotes from school counselors about their experience using HONEYMOON and the associated lesson plans about healthy relationships and teen dating violence. These educators participated in pilot testing of HONEYMOON in the classroom at middle schools and high schools in the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD). Visit the classroom section for more information about using HONEYMOON in the classroom.

Quote about HONEYMOON, a game for young people about healthy relationships: 'This program went above and beyond my expectations ... I look forward to continue using this product in the near future.' - Professional School Counselor, El Paso Independent School District
"This program went above and beyond my expectations ... I look forward to continue using this product in the near future."
- Professional School Counselor, EPISD
Quote about HONEYMOON, a game for young people about healthy relationships: 'I am absolutely in love with this project and I think the idea is an amazing idea for high school teens.' - Laura R., M.Ed., Certified Counselor, El Paso Independent School District
"I am absolutely in love with this project and I think the idea is an amazing idea for high school teens."
- Certified Counselor, EPISD

For classroom tips, best practices for educators, and lesson plans visit the classroom section.

About Jennifer Ann's Group

Since 2008, Jennifer Ann's Group, a nonprofit charity focused on teen dating violence prevention, has produced dozens of serious video games about serious issues affecting adolescents through its Gaming Against Violence program. Themes for these games include consent, bystander awareness, gaslighting, healthy relationships, and teen dating violence prevention.