This gender difference in long-term health outcomes of physical violence could be because girls experience physical violence differently than boys, Exner-Cortens said. "Males are more likely to laugh off physical violence, whereas girls feel it as a more fearful [experience]," she explained.
Although the findings do not prove that teen dating violence causes adult intimate partner violence or other health effects, it does suggest it is a risk factor, Exner-Cortens said.
Pamela Orpinas, professor of health promotion and behavior at the University of Georgia, was not surprised by the findings. Previous research has shown that teen dating violence is associated with a number of other health risk behaviors, she said.
"What is unclear is whether young people who have teen dating violence already have some other health-related problems," Orpinas said.
The findings underscore the need to screen teens for dating violence and intervene, the study authors said. "Parents, schools and health care providers all have important roles to play," Exner-Cortens said.
Adults who are close to the teens can play a big part in intervention, Orpinas said.
Parents can talk to their teens about their relationships in a positive and caring way, and make sure they know what is appropriate behavior in a relationship, Orpinas said. If parents feel that their child is having dating problems, they can try to get help from a school counselor or therapist, she added.
"We've done a lot of focus groups with adolescents on this topic, and consistently they say they would like to be able to talk with teachers and counselors and social workers about relationship issues," Orpinas said.
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