Gender differences in risk behaviors among adolescents who experience date fighting

S R Kreiter, D P Krowchuk, C R Woods, S H Sinal, M R Lawless, R H DuRant
Pediatrics 1999, 104 (6): 1286-92

OBJECTIVE: Although dating violence frequently begins during adolescence, few studies have focused on date fighting in middle and high school students. Fewer studies have studied gender differences in date violence. This study examines whether gender-specific patterns of risk behaviors exist among adolescents who report date fighting.

DESIGN: The study was conducted on data collected from 21 297 students in grades 8 through 12 participating in the Vermont 1995 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Data were analyzed on 20 724 students (females = 50.1%) who reported: 1) never having been involved in a physical fight (n = 8737); 2) that their last physical fight was with a girlfriend, boyfriend, or other dating partner (n = 432); and 3) that their last fight was with someone other than a dating partner (n = 11 555). Indicators of violence (weapon carrying, being threatened, and fighting), suicide attempts, substance use, sexual behavior, and pregnancy were analyzed with chi(2) tests. Significant variables were analyzed with stepwise logistic regression.

RESULTS: Of the males, 1.8% and of the females, 4.2% reported that their last fight was with a boyfriend, girlfriend, or dating partner. Risk behaviors significantly associated among females who only experienced date fighting included the number of male sexual partners in the past 3 months (adjusted odds ratio: 1. 48; 95% confidence interval: 1.26-1.74), number of suicide attempts in the past 12 months (1.55; 1.30-1.85), riding in a car with a drinking driver (1.23; 1.10-1.37), injection of illegal drugs (2.87; 1.10-7.50), use of alcohol before last sexual encounter (1.53; 1. 27-1.86), number of pregnancies (1.66; 1.26-2.21), forced sex (2.92; 2.18-3.91), and inhalant use (1.19; 1.06-1.34). Risk behaviors significantly associated among males who experienced only date fighting were sexual activity (4.11; 2.24-7.53), number of male partners in the past 3 months (1.40; 1.12-1.75), number of times of getting someone pregnant (1.68; 1.17-2.40), experiencing forced sex (2.38; 1.11-5.13), and the number of times threatened with physical violence in past 12 months (1.82; 1.53-2.17). When compared with adolescents who reported fighting with someone other than a date, risk factors significantly associated with date fighting among females were the number of male sexual partners in the past 3 months (1.21; 1.10-1.34), older age (1.21; 1.10-1.34), carrying a weapon in the past 30 days (.77;.66-.90), experiencing forced sex (1.70; 1. 30-2.22), condom non-use (1.96; 1.60-2.41), and number of times of being threatened with physical violence in past 12 months (1.11; 1. 01-1.22). The risk factors among males were the number of male sexual partners in the past 3 months (1.43; 1.28-1.60), experiencing forced sex (1.91; 1.02-3.60), and older age (1.34; 1.14-1.57).

CONCLUSIONS: The patterns of risk behaviors differed among male and female adolescents reporting dating violence. Females who reported date fighting were more likely than were nonfighters to have attempted suicide, to engage in sexual and human immunodeficiency virus risk behaviors (use of injectable drugs), to have been pregnant, experienced forced sex, and to have ridden in a car with a drinking driver. Sexual behaviors, including same-gender sexual partners, forced sex, and having been threatened with physical violence, were associated with date fighting among males. These findings are important in screening adolescents at risk for date fighting, adolescence, risk behaviors, gender.

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