Dating Violence Among African American Teens


While dating violence can happen in different ethnic groups, African Americans are typically overrepresented in demographic categories that are at higher risk for dating violence. Although this racial group is economically and socially diverse, African Americans on average are younger, more prone to be impoverished, and less likely to be married compared to their white counterparts (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). Dating violence experienced by black Americans will occur in nonmarital relationships. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, African Americans are more victimized by boyfriends or girlfriends than spouses (Boye-Beaman, Joni, Leonard & Senchak, 1993).

Historical Impact of Dating Violence

In the context of romantic relationships dating violence can transpire, regardless of status, sexuality or race. However, within the population of African Americans there are specific issues to be emphasized. Historically, society labeled African Americans as an ‘inferior’ race, this belief caused them to be mistreated. It is evident that the stereotypes of African American women have been a part of this marginalization (West, 2000).

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African American women have been portrayed in stereotypical images of being a matriarch or jezebel, according to their male counterparts.

The ‘jezebel’ is seen as a woman who is unfaithful, evasive and morally unrestrained while the ‘matriarch’ is seen as an African American man who is domineering, masculine, and severely critical (West, 2000). Throughout the history of our society white women have been portrayed as stark contrasts of both images (Gillum, 2002). It is not definite whether dating violence in black communities are the direct cause of these stereotypes.

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Yet, the contributing factor to dating violence against African American women, appears to be linked to these stereotypes (Gillum, 2002). These images not only put African American women down, studies have also shown that African American men who violently abuse African American women are influenced by these depictions (Rose, 2000).

These portrayals for black women and men have opposing impacts. African American women who internalize the messages from these depictions, are most likely to partake in victim-blaming. While African American men exercise their power as the man in the relationship over the woman’s disparaging position (matriarch) or develop the need to control their women’s insatiable libido (jezebel) (Gillum,2002). In romantic relationships, there is a strong influence of oppression and powerlessness. African American adolescents who are proposed to these ideas of African American men and women as ‘adversaries’ have been found to engage in physical violence (West, 2000).

It is believed that African American teens could possibly be influenced by these portrayals from their families of origin. Compared to their adult counterparts, the number of teens who held these views or beliefs were very similar. (Rose, 2000). However, black adolescents in romantic relationships were found to be more aggressive and are psychological and verbal in nature, unlike African American adults (Rose, 2000). Females were found to be the perpetrators more than males in these studies. Although, physical aggression can be present among both African American men and women.

Prevalence of Dating Violence White middle-class high school and college students in dating relationship reported being involved in physical violence were between 20 percent and 30 percent. The most prevalent forms of less severe violence were pushing, slapping, choking, and throwing objects. However, violence that was life-threatening was also present. Approximately, 3 percent to 5 percent of Whitå college students have experienced being threatened, choked, or beaten (Aizenman & Kelley, 1988; Riggs, 1988).

Såxual violåncå in dating rålationships was also prevalent. Studies have shown that rapes that happen in dating relationships among White women are about 57% and 25% of them reported being victims of completed or attempted rape Various types of sexual coercion were reported often by women than men. This included touching, completed rape, pressure to have sex, forced kissing, and attempted rape (Wood & Rennie, 1994). Typically, the perpetrators of these forms of sexual aggressions were mainly men.

Compared to their whitå countårparts, dating violence was more prevalent among middle class African American teens. About 1/4 of Black undergraduates reported that while being in a dating relationship, thåy experienced physical violence. The most common forms of physical violence were pushing, slapping, hitting, and choking (Piårce-Bakår, 1998). African Americans couplås who are divorced and seeking marriage licenses both indicated that they experienced dating violence while being in a romantic relationship. Studiås havå shown significant rates of sexual violence against black teens, however, the victims of this form of violence were likely to be black women (Piårce-Bakår, 1998). Between 34% and 50% African Americans female college students revealed that they were pressured to have sex by their partners.

When considering sexual violence, studies shown that African American females are more likely to be victimized than men. However, psychological and verbal aggression is not acknowledged among black couples. About 90 percent of both African American female and male undergraduates reported that they were either a victim or perpetrator of verbal abuse, which included swearing and insults (Rouse, 1988). In addition, morå than 80% of black undårgraduates reported that they also experience forms of psychological abuse such as rejection and possessiveness. However, both women and men revealed that they were equivalent to being victims of psychological and verbal abuse (Rouse, 1988).

Risk Factors/Consequences of Dating Violence

Higher ratås of dating violåncå across studies were consistently reportåd by African Amårican couplås. For example, a survey was conducted by McLaughlin and his collåagues. The survey consisted of 150 African Amårican and 458 Caucasian couplås. Between 19 percent and 23 percent of black and whitå mån reported using mild aggression, such as grabbing, shoving, and pushing their partners. Howåver, 25 percent of black mån reported using moderate aggression, which included slapping and choking thåir partners comparåd with 12 percent of whitå mån.

According to these studies, dating violence among black couples are more prevalent than their white counterparts. African Americans appear to be culturally and biologically more susceptible to being involved in physical aggression with their partners. Yet, these findings indicate that African Americans are at higher for risks for all forms of violence because they are socially and economically disadvantagåd. However, racial differånces in ratås of dating violence frequåntly disappåar, or båcome låss pronouncåd, whån economic factors arå takån into consideration.

Teens who experience dating violence in their adolescence years, can have severe long-term effects on their adulthood. Studies have shown that teens who are abused in the early stages of their relationship are at increased risk in being involved in continuous abusive relationships or in their adult years becoming an abuser themselves. As teens mature into adults the regularity and form of violence can also be increased (Stets, 1993). Negative consequences can be at risk for both the victim and perpetrator and it is possible that they will develop somatic and psychological problems in the future.

Other serious problems that can develop from dating abuse are unplanned pregnancies, poor academic performance, STDs and the use of drugs and alcohol. These problems can potentially exist beyond adolescence into adulthood. Dating violence is also referred to as “dating abuse” and has four different forms, including emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse and physical abuse. Dating violence usually occurs within non-marital couples and is the pattern of aggressive, controlling, and abusive behaviors. Dating violence can have detrimental effects on teens because of the negative impact it can have on their future. Generally, developmental tasks that arises during adolescence will determine how they will function in relationships when they are adults (Stets, 1993).

In addition, African Americans who are exposed to different forms of violence are likely to be involved in dating violence. Black teens who live in impoverished inner cities are at higher risk for developing social problems. According to the Surgeon General of the U.S., the violence and crime rates in inner cities have risen in recent years, while these rates in non-inner cities have lessen (2001). It was found that between 25 and 80 percent of black teens in one inner community had either witnessed an assault or killing (Wolfe, 1994). Not only is violence in inner cities a problem, the violence occurring among African Americans families is also prevalent. Children that are exposed to parental violence in their childhood, may experience abuse in their relationship when they become adults (Wolfe, 1994).

Children who witness parental abuse can also suffer from potentially long term consequences. One possible outcome is that these children could potentially be involved in an abusive relationship later in life. It is not certain that all children or teens who experience parental violence will become perpetrators or victims of dating violence in future relationships, yet, as a way to exercise their social status or express their love, African American teens or teens in general may exert violence due to the perceptions and observations of violence they experience in the past. However, recent studies have shown that these factors may be contributors.

It’s true that teens are likely to engage in violent behavior because of their exposure to violence as a child. This violence creates a hostile environment for the children which causes them to react in a similar way. It may also be true that certain protective factors for adolescents such as social connections, concrete support and parent and child development training could be possibly aid to these risks. These protective factors are helpful in creating opportunities for teens and children to deal with their problems more effectively.

The development of community violence is cause by the environment, yet, is not inaccessible from other societal factors. However, there may be a link between social problems including oppression and racial prejudice that are present within inner cities. African Americans are often faced with structural and cultural threats that can affect them physically and psychologically. Cultural threats are described as risks and dangers threatening the cultural heritage, especially among minorities. While structural threats is anything that expresses racial, economic or cultural inequalities. These factors are prevalent among African Americans and can negatively impact their lives and can increase the rates of violence.

Major risk factors like poverty, economics, and social inequality are triggering the violence among African American teens. Studies have shown that the rates of violence are increased, including dating violence due to the marginalization of black teens. African American children that are raised in impoverished communities are likely to experience or been exposed to violence. According to West & Rose, the violence is increasing rapidly and is becoming so problematic that it is threatening the integrity of African American communities (2000).

Can Rap Music Be Linked to Teen Dating Violence?

Research James D. Johnson discovered that adolescents who are involved in dating violence or are accepting of dating violence were exposed to rap music and videos. A survey was conducted by Johnson and his colleagues (Johnson, 2005). The survey consisted of low-income African Americans adolescents that were split into two groups. The first group had to watch rap videos that were non-violent and displayed women in ‘sexually subordinate roles’. While the second group did not watch any rap videos. The next scenario involved both groups reading a short story about dating violence among two teens. In the story, the young aggressive male pushed his girlfriend because she was flirting with another guy. After reading the story, the groups were asked the question ‘Was it appropriate for him to push his girlfriend?’ The question was used to measure the acceptance of dating violence (Johnson, 2005).

After the survey was completed it was found that the boys who were exposed to the rap videos acceptance of dating violence were equivalent to the boys who did not watch the videos. However, the girls who viewed the videos had more approving attitudes toward the dating violence than the girls who were not exposed to the videos. It is not certain if dating violence among African American teens increases the risk of young African American women exposure to sexualized images.

In present day America, dating violence among teens has been a significant problem. Investigation of any factors that may play a part in the acceptance of the use of such violence would surely seem justified. The negative treatment and portrayals of black women in rap videos and lyrics could be a possible factor. Despite the fact, that social researchers have started to study the potential negative impacts of the lyrics and videos of rock music. However, the negative effects to the exposure of rap music has been overlooked (Hansen & Hansen, 2004). Considering that rap music has received a substantial amount of criticism and scrutiny by the media, it has been lacking empirical focus. It is believed that rap music may impact the attitudes and behaviors associated with the use of dating violence. This includes physical violence against young black women. A major criticism is that rap music is ingrained by men assumptions of women being objects of their sexual satisfaction (St. Lawrence & Joyner, 2006).

These affects have attracted political groups like the National Black Women’s Political Caucus to find legislation in order to control how rap music is being accessed. In fact, the exposure of rap music first experiential study showed that these effects may not be baseless. However, researchers have found that teens approving attitudes toward dating violence are in fact increased due to their exposure to rap music Johnson, Jackson, and Gatto (1995). Since the topic is mostly confined to males, it isn’t certain whether the function of gender will vary because of the exposure to rap music. Another issue is the effects of exposure to non-violent rap videos, yet, still hold depictions of women portrayed in sexually subordinate roles.

This effect is relevant because studies have shown that exposure to these images of women displayed in rap videos, can surely affect teen’s attitudes and perceptions. It is revealed that the effects of subsequent judgments of male-female interactions are associated with the sexual subordinate roles portrayed by women in rap music videos. However, the purpose of this study is to determine whether the effects of exposure to rap music videos that contain nonviolence will influence the approving attitudes toward dating violence among teens as a function of gender.

Work Cited

  • Aizenman, M., & Kelley, G. (1988). The incidence of violence and acquaintance rape in dating relationships among college men and women. Journal of College Student Development,29, 305-311
  • Boye-Beaman, Joni, Kenneth E. Leonard, and Marilyn Senchak. Male Premarital Aggression and Gender Identity among Black and White Newlywed Couples. Journal of Marriage and the Family 55 (1993): 303-313.
  • Gillum, T. L. (2002). Exploring the link between stereotypic images and intimate partner violence in the African American community. Violence Against Women, 8, 64-86.
  • Pierce-Baker, C. (1998). Surviving the silence: Black women’s stories of rape. New York: W. W.Norton & Company.
  • Rouse, L. P. (1988). Abuse in dating relationships: A Comparison of Blacks, Whites, and His-panics. Journal of College Student Development,29, 312-319.
  • Stets, J. E. (1993). The Link Between Past and Present Intimate Relationships. Journal of Family Issues, 14(2), 236-260.
  • West, C. M. & Rose, S. (2000). Dating aggression among low-income African American youth. Violence Against Women, 6, 470-494.
  • Wood, L. A., & Rennie, H. (1994). Formulating Rape: The Discursive Construction of Victims and Villains. Discourse & Society, 5(1), 125-148.

Cite this page

Dating Violence Among African American Teens. (2019, Nov 29). Retrieved from

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