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Originally published by 2 Minute Medicine® (view original article). Reused on AccessPediatrics with permission.

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1. Advanced pubertal development in girls was associated with an increased number of adolescent dating abuse (ADA) victimization if the girls’ friendship group consisted of a greater percentage of boys.

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2. Higher levels of ADA were also associated with more relationships, being older, living in a family with lower household income, having lower self-esteem, engaging in more anti-social behaviors, and being white vs. Hispanic.

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Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Study Rundown:

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A previous study showed that girls who enter puberty early were at a higher risk for *. Consistent with this understanding is the idea that with early puberty comes an association with emotional and behavioral problems, including substance, abuse, eating disorders, and poor academic achievement. Authors of this study sought to understand the conditions that allow for this heightened ADA risk. Results indicate that advanced pubertal development in girls was associated with an increased number of ADA victimization if the girls’ friendship groups consisted of a greater percentage of boys. In addition, higher levels of ADA were also associated with more relationships, being older, living in a family with lower household income, having lower self-esteem, engaging in more anti-social behaviors, and being white vs. Hispanic. Limitations of this study include self-report of pubertal development, the possibility of underreporting ADA (as the study only looked at 6 relationships per participant), and the lack of updated data (data used in this study is 20 years old). These findings are important for pediatricians and caregivers, considering that this biological marker could serve to identify those at increased risk for ADA.

In-Depth [retrospective cohort]:

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Study participants were part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a representative sample of US adolescents in grades 7 to 12 in 1994 to 1995. The study population included 3870 females ages 13 to 17 years, with the following racial breakdown: 61% white, 22.5% African Americans and 16.5% Hispanic. ADA was assessed via in-home interviews with each participant referencing 3 romantic and 3 non-romantic relationships in the past 18 months. ADA included participants whose partners insulted them in public, swore at them, threatened them with violence, pushed/shoved them in public, or threw something at them. Amongst these participants, 30% reported to have experienced at least 1 form of ADA. Subjective (self report of perceived physical development compared to others) and objective (age at first menstrual period) reports were used to identify pubertal development. Results revealed a statistically significant positive correlation between relative pubertal development and ADA (r=0.06 and 0.07 for objective and subjective pubertal timing, respectively). In addition, higher levels of ADA were also associated with having more relationships, being older, living in a family with lower household income, having lower self-esteem, engaging in more anti-social behaviors, and being white vs. (r=0.45, r=0.07, r=-0.15, r=-0.53, r=0.10, r=-0.22, respectively). A moderate positive association was found between relative pubertal development and the number of boys in girls’ friendship groups (r=0.39, p<0.05).

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*Foster H, Hagan J, Brooks-Gunn J. Age, puberty, and exposure to intimate partner violence in adolescence. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004;1036(1):151–166

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