SEATTLE — Many people experience their first romantic relationship as teens, but for those with mental health issues, breakups and matters of the heart can be deeply troubling. In some cases, those relationships end in violence, and tragically, even murder. Now, a study conducted by the University of Washington finds that teenage girls are far more likely to be the victims of an intimate partner homicide.
Using data from the National Violent Death Reporting System between 2003 and 2016, researchers analyzed 2,188 murders in which the victim was between the ages of 11 and 18. The relationship between the perpetrator and the murder victim was known for all of these murders.
A total of 150, or 6.9%, of those murders were committed by an intimate partner. Of those 150 intimate partner homicides, 90% of the perpetrators were male.
“This is a public health issue that should be taken seriously,” says lead author Avanti Adhia, a senior fellow at UW’s Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, in a statement. “While not a common occurrence, it does occur more often than people realize.”
Many of these murders are sparked by a seemingly mild argument, or the victim attempting to end the relationship, with the situation escalating from there.
“The majority of the homicides occur in older adolescence between the ages of 16-18,” explains Adhia. “Partly why I was interested in this topic is the perception that teen dating violence is less serious than intimate partner violence among adults, but it’s important to understand that things can escalate among teens as well.”
Researchers say that school faculty and other community members should be aware that these awful events can happen among teens, and should take action if they recognize the warning signs of violence.
The study is published in the scientific journal JAMA Pediatrics.