Perpetration of Physical Assault Against Dating Partners, Peers, and Siblings Among a Locally Representative Sample of High School Students in Boston, Massachusetts

Boston high school students commonly report having assaulted their boyfriend or girlfriend.

Perpetrators of dating violence often physically abuse their siblings and peers; this behavioral overlap has implications for preventing dating violence. This study examined physical assault among dating partners in the 9th through the 12th grades; the study also investigated overlap with violence against peers and siblings.

Between January and April 2008, close to 2,000 students completed the voluntary Boston Youth Survey. The survey instructed respondents to differentiate between playing or joking violence and actual violence. Respondents indicated the number of times in the previous month they had interacted with their dating partner by yelling, cursing, threatening physical violence and enacting actual violence (e.g., punching or kicking).

Key Findings:

  • Almost one-fifth of students had perpetrated dating violence within the previous month.
  • More than 50 percent of boys and 60 percent of girls reported having physically assaulted a sibling.
  • Substance use, knife carrying, school truancy and exposure to community violence were related to dating violence.

This study confirmed previous findings that individuals who commit dating violence commonly abuse their peers and siblings. Determining if one form of violence precedes another will require longitudinal research.