Other Types of Aggressive Behavior, Dating Violence, and Prevention Programs

Other Types of Aggressive Behavior

There are many other types of aggressive behavior that don’t fit the definition of bullying. This does not mean that they are any less serious or require less attention than bullying. Rather, these behaviors require different prevention and response strategies.

Early Childhood

Early childhood often marks the first opportunity for young children to interact with each other. Between the ages of 3 and 5, kids are learning how to get along with each other, cooperate, share, and understand their feelings. Young children may be aggressive and act out when they are angry or don’t get what they want, but this is not bullying. Still, there are ways to help children.

Helping Young Children Get Along with Others

Parents, school staff, and other adults can help young children develop skills for getting along with others in age-appropriate ways.

  • Model positive ways for young children to make friends. For example, practice pleasant ways that children can ask to join others in play and take turns in games. Coach older children to help reinforce these behaviors as well. Praise children for appropriate behavior. Help young children understand what behaviors are friendly.
  • Help young children learn the consequences of certain actions in terms they can understand. For example, say “if you don’t share, other children may not want to play with you.” Encourage young children to tell an adult if they are treated in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, upset or unhappy, or if they witness other children being harmed.
  • Set clear rules for behavior and monitor children’s interactions carefully. Step in quickly to stop aggressive behavior or redirect it before it occurs.
  • Use age-appropriate consequences for aggressive behavior. Young children should be encouraged to say “I’m sorry” whenever they hurt a peer, even accidentally. The apology should also be paired with an action. For example, young children could help rebuild a knocked over block structure or replace a torn paper or crayons with new ones. (81)

Other Types of Aggressive Behavior

Peer Conflict

It is not bullying when two kids with no perceived power imbalance fight, have an argument, or disagree. Conflict resolution or peer mediation may be appropriate for these situations.

Hazing

Hazing is the use of embarrassing and often dangerous or illegal activities by a group to initiate new members.

Gang Violence

There are specialized approaches to addressing violence and aggression within or between gangs.

Harassment

Although bullying and harassment sometimes overlap, not all bullying is harassment and not all harassment is bullying. Under federal civil rights laws, harassment is unwelcome conduct based on a protected class (race, national origin, color, sex, age, disability, religion) that is severe, pervasive, or persistent and creates a hostile environment.

Stalking

Stalking is repeated harassing or threatening behavior, such as following a person, damaging a person’s property, or making harassing phone calls.

Teen Dating Violence

Teen dating violence is intimate partner violence that occurs between two young people who are, or once were, in a relationship.

Healthy relationships consist of trust, honesty, respect, equality, and compromise. Unfortunately, teen dating violence—the type of intimate partner violence that occurs between two young people who are, or who were once in, an intimate relationship—is a serious problem in the United States. A national survey found that ten percent of teens, female and male, had been the victims of physical dating violence within the past year and approximately 29 percent of adolescents reported being verbally or psychologically abused within the previous year.

Teen dating violence can be any one, or a combination, of the following:

Physical

This includes pinching, hitting, shoving, or kicking.

Emotional

This involves threatening a partner or harming his or her sense of self-worth. Examples include name calling, controlling/jealous behaviors, consistent monitoring, shaming, bullying (online, texting, and in person), intentionally embarrassing him/her, keeping him/her away from friends and family.

Sexual

This is defined as forcing a partner to engage in a sex act when he or she does not or cannot consent.

It can negatively influence the development of healthy sexuality, intimacy, and identity as youth grow into adulthood and can increase the risk of physical injury, poor academic performance, binge drinking, suicide attempts, unhealthy sexual behaviors, substance abuse, negative body image and self-esteem, and violence in future relationships.

Teen dating violence can be prevented, especially when there is a focus on reducing risk factors as well as fostering protective factors, and when teens are empowered through family, friends, and others (including role models such as teachers, coaches, mentors, and youth group leaders) to lead healthy lives and establish healthy relationships. It is important to create spaces, such as school communities, where the behavioral norms are not tolerant of abuse in dating relationships. The message must be clear that treating people in abusive ways will not be accepted, and policies must enforce this message to keep students safe. (82)

Risk Factors

Certain factors may increase teens’ risk of experiencing and perpetrating teen dating violence. A number of studies have looked at the relationship between teen dating violence and community, family, peer, and individual risk factors. A lack of longitudinal data and a reliance on self-report data limits the causal connections that can be made between risk factors and teen dating violence. In most cases the relationship between risk factors and teen dating violence listed below represent correlations, but not necessarily causality.

Risk Factors for Teen Dating Violence Victimization

Findings suggest that the frequency and severity of teen dating violence increases with age. In addition, the likelihood of being subjected to violence in a relationship increases for teens who:

  • Experience stressful life events or show symptoms of trauma (including past history of sexual abuse or prior sexual victimization).
  • Live in poverty, come from disadvantaged homes, or receive child protective services.
  • Are exposed to community or neighborhood violence.
  • Participate in risky behaviors (e.g., substance abuse, alcohol use, violence).
  • Begin dating at an early age.
  • Participate in sexual activity prior to age 16.
  • Have problem behaviors in other areas.
  • Have a friend involved in dating violence.
  • Participate in peer violence or have violent friends.
  • Believe that dating violence is acceptable or are more accepting of rape myths and violence against women.
  • Begin menstruating at an early age (for women).
  • Have been exposed to harsh parenting; inconsistent discipline; or lack supervision, monitoring, and warmth.
  • Have low self-esteem, anger, or depressed mood.
  • Use emotional disengagement and confrontational blaming as coping mechanisms.
  • Exhibit maladaptive or antisocial behaviors.
  • Have aggressive conflict-management styles.
  • Have low help-seeking proclivities.

Risk Factors for Teen Dating Violence Perpetration

There are also risk factors that contribute to the likelihood of a teen becoming a perpetrator of dating violence. Many of these are developmentally normal in youth, such as little to no relationship experience, vulnerability to peer pressure, and unsophisticated communication skills. Some additional factors that have been found to be associated with teen dating violence perpetration include:

  • Believing that it is acceptable to use threats or violence to get one’s way or to express frustration or anger.
  • Problems managing anger or frustration.
  • Association with violent peers.
  • Low self-esteem and depression.
  • Not having parental supervision and support.
  • Witnessing violence at home or in the community. (83)

Prevention Programs

The ultimate goal of education about youth violence is to stop teen dating violence before it begins. During the preteen and teen years, young people are learning the skills they need to form positive, healthy relationships with others, and it is therefore an ideal time to promote healthy relationships and prevent patterns of teen dating violence that can last into adulthood. Learn more about characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships.

In addition to teaching relationship skills, prevention programs can focus on promoting protective factors—that is, characteristics of a teen’s environment that can support healthy development—and positive youth development. These can also be fostered by a teen’s home and community. For example, higher levels of bonding to parents and enhanced social skills can protect girls against victimization. Similarly, for boys, high levels of parental bonding have been found to be associated with less externalizing behavior, which in turn is associated with less teen dating violence victimization.

Most of the handful of programs that have been empirically investigated are school-based and use a group format. Program length varies from less than a day to more than 20 sessions. A few programs frame the issue using a feminist perspective, while others use a more skills-based and gender-neutral approach. Teen dating violence prevention programs tend to focus on attitudes about violence, gender stereotyping, conflict management, and problem-solving skills. Activities aimed at increasing awareness and dispelling myths about violence in relationships are often included in the curriculum. (84)