Ptoblem-Solving Court Focused on Juvenile Domestic Violence: An Evaluation of a Four Year Juvenile Court Program

Inger Sagatun-Edwards, San Jose State University

While adult domestic violence has received much attention both by researchers and the justice system, juvenile domestic violence was largely ignored until very recently. Some observers now refer to teen dating violence as a social problem of "epidemic proportion" and as a "hidden epicemic." In am important new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, one in five female high school students reported physical or sexual abuse by a dating partner. This abuse was associated with high-risk behaviors, such as early onset of sexual activity, early pregnancy, increased risk of substance abuse, unhealthy weight-control behaviors, and suicidality. The authors concluded that "dating violence is extremely prevalent among this population, and that it is associated with serious health risk factors." According to a study by Anne Bryant, more than 80 percent of girls and more than 70 percent of boys reported that they experienced unwelcome and unwanted sexual behavior that interfered with their lives. Juvenile domestic violence appears to begin in the early teen years.

Researchers have concluded that parental domestic violence and abusive behavior increase the risk that youth will become domestic and family violence offenders. All of these studies indicate the importance of early intervention in adolescent dating violence to reduce the risk of repeated domestic violence across generations.

Family violence (juveniles' violence against parents, siblings, and their own children) has received less attention. Vernon Wiehe has argued that sibling abuse is often an unrecognized form of violence that can leave terrible scars for life. Timothy Brezina has noted that teen violence toward parents is not a result of socioeconomic deprivation, but more an adaptation to family strain. Juvenile family violence often is due to lack of parental attachment and can best be explained as having been learned from a model of parental punitiveness.

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Updated 05/20/2006