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Feature Article


Early warning signs of teen dating violence

Stephanie McGhee, former Graduate Student, Human Development & Family Studies, University of Missouri


Researchers who study teen dating violence have identified several early warning signs that a dating relationship might be likely to turn violent. These warning signs do not mean a relationship will definitely turn violent. However, if you notice several of them in your relationship or partner, you may need to re-evaluate your dating relationship. These warning signs include:

  • Excessive jealousy
  • Constantly checking in with you or making you check in with him or her
  • Attempts to isolate you from friends and family
  • Insulting or putting down people you care about
  • Is too serious about the relationship too quickly
  • Has had a lot of bad prior relationships, and blames all of the problems on the previous partners
  • Is very controlling, which may include giving you orders, telling you what to wear and trying to make all of the decisions for you
  • Blames you when he or she treats you badly by telling you all of the ways you provoked him or her
  • Does not take responsibility for own actions
  • Has an explosive temper (“blows up” a lot)
  • Pressures you into sexual activity you are not comfortable with
  • Has a history of fighting, hurting animals or brags about mistreating other people
  • Believes strongly in stereotypical gender roles for males and females
  • You worry about how your partner will react to the things you say or are afraid of provoking your partner
  • Owns or uses weapons
  • Refuses to let you end the relationship

What can you do if you notice these signs in your relationship?

  • Trust your intuition! If you believe there may be a problem in your relationship, you are probably right. Do not ignore the warning signs. Research has found that those who have a tendency to engage in relationship violence escalate their abuse over time. In other words, it gets worse over time, not better.
  • Spend time with people you care about other than your partner. Stay in touch with your friends.
  • Keep up with activities that you enjoy and that make you feel good about yourself.
  • You might consider looking into what help or resources might be available in your school or area. You might also want to consider calling a domestic violence hotline or shelter for more information before you experience a crisis.
  • There are things you can do to ensure your safety at home and at school. For more information, see Domestic Violence: Staying Safe


If you or someone you know is experiencing dating violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).


Eastside Domestic Violence Program (2006). About Domestic Violence: For Teenagers. Retrieved March 29, 2006 from

National Center for Victims of Crime. (2004). Dating Violence. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Victims of Crime Retrieved March 23, 2006 from

National Center for Victims of Crime. (2004). If You Are a Victim of Teen Dating Violence. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Victims of Crime. Retrieved March 23, 2006 from


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Last Updated 10/12/2015