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Your Teen

More Teens Fall Victim to Dating Violence

2:00

The teenage years are supposed to be filled with laughter, fun and testing the boundaries of parental control. It’s also a time when many boys and girls will start dating. For some teens, the beginning of couple relationships is about as far away from fun as it could possibly be.

Some teenagers may think that teasing and name-calling are somehow linked with a fondness for someone, and that might have been true when they were six or seven years old. However, by the time a young girl or boy reaches their teenage years, that kind of behavior can take on a much different tone. What was once an awkward attempt at gaining someone’s attention can turn into physical and sexual abuse.

According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that is happening more than you might think.

Twenty-one percent of high school girls have been physically or sexually assaulted by someone they dated -- a figure twice as high as previously estimated.

Ten percent of high school boys also reported being physically or sexually assaulted by someone they had dated.

The authors of the new report noted that the CDC has changed the way it phrases its questions about teen dating violence, leading more students to report assaults.

Sadly, teens that have experienced dating violence are at risk for other serious problems as well. Research has shown that they are more than twice as likely to consider suicide. They are also more likely to get into fights, carry a weapon, use alcohol, marijuana or cocaine and to have sex with multiple partners. Not the kind of life any parent would want for their teenager or the one that they would truly want for themselves.  

Researchers don't know if any of these events causes the others. While it's possible that dating violence could cause thoughts of suicide, it's also possible that children who are depressed are more likely than others to fall into abusive relationships, says Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston who was not involved in the study.

Assaults by romantic partners often aren't isolated events. Many teens reported being assaulted multiple times, according to the study, based on the CDC's Youth Behavior Risk Surveillance System using questionnaires answered by more than 13,000 high school students.

"If there is violence once, there is likely to be violence again," Spinks-Franklin says. "It has to be taken very seriously."

Spinks-Franklin says she has seen violence even among relationships between 10- and 11-year-olds.

"If a parent is concerned that a child is in an unhealthy relationship, they need to address it, but do it in a way that doesn't make the child shut down," she says. "They need to feel safe telling a parent."

Teens often hide the abuse from their parents, Spinks-Franklin says. Teens may not be able to confide in friends, either, because abusers sometimes isolate their victims from loved ones. Teens are sometimes more willing to talk to doctors, especially if their parents are not in the room.

Some schools have taken the lead in promoting awareness of and education on teen dating violence. Pediatricians can also discuss this important topic with their patients and parents. If time is limited, brochures in the waiting room can offer information and open the door for questions.

"This study makes it even more important for parents to ask lots of questions and get to know their teen's friends and significant others, and not ignore anything that makes them uncomfortable," says McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital. "They also shouldn't ignore any changes in their teen's behavior."

Dating violence may never be eliminated one hundred percent, but can be considerably lessoned when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies.

One of the best strategies for prevention is for parents and teens to be able to communicate about serious topics without judgmental attitudes or closed-minded opinions. Your teen wants your help even if he or she doesn’t know how to ask. They'll appreciate you being there before and when they need you.

The new study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Sources: Liz Szabo, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/03/02/teen-dating-violence-study/24127121/

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teen_dating_violence.html

Your Teen

Head Injury Linked To Violent Behavior

2.00 to read

A new study says that children who have suffered a head injury are more likely to get into a fight or take part in other types of violent behavior. Every parent knows that childhood often comes with bumps, bruises, cuts and falls. Sometimes those accidents include head injuries. A new study says that children who have suffered a head injury are more likely to get into a fight or take part in other types of violent behavior.

The connection between head injury and violence was particularly strong if the head injury had occurred within the past year, the authors of the study note in the journal Pediatrics. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 1.7 million Americans experience a traumatic brain injury every year, due to bumps, blows, jolts, or any injury that disrupts the brain's normal functioning. The study author, Dr. Sarah Stoddard with the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told Reuters Health that- with this type of research- it is difficult to figure out if brain injury is really the root of the aggression or if some other factor is the reason. Stoddard also notes that activities like drinking, drug use ,and a history of violence didn’t seem to explain the findings. Stoddard and a colleague analyzed several years' worth of data from 850 kids in high school and followed them until five years after they left school. All of the participants had a grade point average of 3 or lower, putting them at risk for dropping out. In the fifth year of the study, 88 of the young adults said they had suffered a head injury. Of those individuals, 43 percent said they had gotten into a fight, hurt someone, or taken part in some type of violence over the following year. That compared to 34 percent of those who didn't report a head injury. The findings suggest that the more recent a head injury is, the more likely a young adult is to be aggressive. According to Stoddard, "The brain does recover over time." Stoddard also adds that researchers should investigate the long-term effects of head injuries in young people, as well as preventive measures such as protective gear for sports and interventions that help kids with head injuries manage their behaviors before they lead to violence. A different study conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, of young athletes 15-to-24 years old, reveals that sports are second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury to the brain. And concussions represent 10 percent of all high school athletic injuries. Previous studies have also shown that brain injuries can also cause changes in memory, reasoning, and emotions, including impulsivity and aggression. In studies with prisoners, researchers have found that those with a history of brain injuries are more likely to engage in violence. The study "does suggest there is a link between head injury and violence particularly early on," said Dr. Huw Williams, who has found the same relationship in prisoners, but was not involved in the new work. And if they believe their children experienced a brain injury in the past, they should also get expert advice on what to look for to make sure brain function doesn't deteriorate, he added. "It's important to monitor." Brain injury can range from mild to severe causing a short loss of consciousness and confusion to amnesia and coma. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that head injuries should be observed, and treatment should be sought if any of the following symptoms appear: •       A constant headache, particularly one that gets worse •       Slurred speech or confusion •       Dizziness that does not go away or happens repeatedly •       Extreme irritability or other abnormal behavior •       Vomiting more than 2 or 3 times •       Stumbling or difficulty walking •       Oozing blood or watery fluid from the nose or ears •       Difficulty waking up or excessive sleepiness •       Unequal size of the pupils (the dark center part of the eyes) •       Double vision or blurry vision •       Unusual paleness that lasts for more than an hour •       Convulsions (seizures) •       Difficulty recognizing familiar people •       Weakness of arms or legs •       Persistent ringing in the ears If your child does well through the observation period, there should be no long-lasting problems. Remember, most head injuries are mild. However, be sure to talk with your child's doctor about any concerns or questions you might have. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury also contains a free online training course on preventing sports-related brain injuries in young athletes.

Daily Dose

Talk With Your Teen About Dating Violence

1.45 to read

It's a frightening number. According to a new survey by the CDC, 1 in 4 women say they are violently attacked by their intimate partner. As a pediatrician, I often talk with my teenaged patients about dating abuse. My best advice to parents is to do the same. Your teen remembers all too well the headlines about Rhianna and (then) boyfriend Chris Brown's dating rage?  This page one story filtered through the halls of every middle school, high school and college. The unfortunate truth is that dating violence surrounds young people and affects everyone around them. The numbers are worse among this age group: 1 in 3 teenagers say they know a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, slapped, choked or physically hurt by their partner. This startling statistic is what is "reported"...I'm wondering how many go unreported and are whispers among friends? Teen dating violence knows no boundary...it runs across race, gender and socio-economic lines. Both males and females are victims. Verbal abuse cuts through a teen's heart with 80% of teens saying this is a "serious issue" for their age group. When asked whether parents have discussed dating violence with their children? 54% will say they have not. Begin the dialogue today! Teach them that dating abuse comes in many forms...physical, sexual, verbal or emotional. Let them know that at any time they feel threatened by their partner, they should tell someone and seek assistance. Also, talk to your children about healthy relationships. Tell them to trust their instincts, communicate clearly and always be in control of themselves. You've heard me talk about the 10 steps to better parenting. Step #1: model the behavior you expect. Go home and show your children first hand what a healthy relationship you have with your spouse or significant other. It's the basis for raising healthy, resilient kids. For more information, you can contact the National Teen Dating Violence Abuse Helpline 1-866-331-9474. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Guns on College Campuses

A new Texas bill is before the legislature which would allow college students to carry a handgun. Good or bad idea? I’m not sure how many of you have heard about a bill now being considered in the Texas Legislature?  The bill would allow students to carry a concealed handgun on campus and remove “premises of higher education” as gun-free zones. I must say, what is the sponsor of this bill thinking?  Senator Jeff Wentworth who is sponsoring the bill states, “I just don’t want to see a repeat in Texas of what happened at Virginia Tech”.

I am more concerned about MORE violence, rather than less, if students are allowed to bring handguns to campus.  It is almost like a return to the “wild west” rather than to the reality of having campuses with as many as 50,000 “young adults” who will not be allowed to bring guns to class. I not only care for many young adults of this age group, but also have a college student myself. As a parent and pediatrician I think that this bill may lead to more violence and arbitrary shootings than we have unfortunately already seen. Just last year, a University of Texas-Austin student carrying an AK-47 assault weapon ran across campus shooting in the air before running into a building and taking his own life.  The UT campus police responded swiftly and quickly secured the campus. The University of Texas used email and other social media to notify all students to remain in their dorms or in their classrooms. What if there had been many gun wielding students who responded to the situation with their own guns, how would the police even know who was “the good guy” vs. the “bad guy”.  It would seem to me that we need to allow the trained police and campus security as well as administrators to handle these situations, rather than gun-wielding students.  There doesn’t seem to be a good reason to allow students to carry a handgun. Maybe a professor or another person of authority, that might be another conversation. After asking a few students myself, the overall consensus was that they, the students, opposed the bill. This seemed to be true even among those who were hunters. They had many concerns about having their peers armed with handguns. They are well aware of the many stressors on a college campus. Having a handgun “handy” might lead to impulsive shootings when a verbal exchange or even fist fight had been the previous means of resolving an argument.   The mental health of college students is one of the biggest concerns on every college campus these days.  A vast proportion of money allocated for “health care” in college is spent on mental health issues as educators become more aware of the frequency of these issues. As colleges deal with students with depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug issues, addictions and anger management, the idea of allowing handguns on any college campus seems to be unnecessary and actually scary. I realize that there are strict rules for obtaining a handgun license, just as there are for getting a driver’s license. Despite the laws for obtaining a driver’s license we continue to see this same age group have high vehicular accident rates. They make impulsive decisions and drink and drive, or don’t wear a seat belt, or use drugs and get behind the wheel of the car. The same might hold true for handgun possession, when alcohol, drugs and sleeplessness impair judgment.  Even the thought of a handgun going off accidently could cause harm to the innocent classmates. I agree with Senator Wentworth, I do not want to see another tragic shooting on any school premises. But to think that arming students with concealed hand guns for protection seems like a preposterous means of protecting our schools. More security, YES, more counseling and mental health awareness, YES, detailed plans to handle a shooting or hostage situation, YES   but guns on a college campus….. I vote NO! What do you think? Do you think college students hould be alowed to carry a gun on campus? I would love your feedback.

Daily Dose

TV & Tragic Events

1:30 to watch

It was with much sadness and disbelief that I found myself watching the news of yet another senseless tragedy where 14 innocent victims in were “shot in cold blood” for no apparent reason except for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  This shooting in San Bernadino is becoming all too common and how do you discuss these weekly or monthly shootings with your children. I have found myself discussing this issue all too frequently with families.

The statistics surrounding “random” shootings in the U.S.  in the last several years are staggering and it seems that we are becoming all to used to “breaking news” with yet another shooting in malls, movie theaters, workplaces, and schools.  The pictures from one disastrous event are barely off of the news and screens before another one occurs. 

How do you talk about your children about these events? How do you even begin to explain to them that these events should not keep them awake at night or cause them to have bad dreams or nightmares, when these attacks are causing so much concern and even nightmares for their parents? It is a difficult, but unfortunately necessary discussion for families.

Our children need to feel safe and secure and that is the primary role of parents.  We all want to protect our children but at the same time prepare them for the “real world”.  So, discussions surrounding these news events should be tailored to a child’s age.  If you are fortunate to have very young children my hope is that they are unaware of the recent events that have blanketed the news.  I am still convinced that having constant news replaying the horrific events of the day is not healthy for anyone. So….with that being said, turn off the TV.  Even if you think the news is  “only on in the background”, your children are aware of the pictures that replay of bloodied bodies, terrified adults and children, SWAT teams and sirens.

If your children are older then they have probably seen the breaking news and have watched the situations on their social media sites as they evolved. In this case, I think it is appropriate to have family discussions about violence, guns, politics, terrorism and the world we live in.  Tailor your conversations to your children’s ages. Let them ask questions, answer them honestly and succinctly and let them guide how much detail needs to be discussed.  

Talking to your children and teaching them to be aware of their surroundings and to have a plan in case of emergency is now a reality.  But at the same time, reassuring even a cynical teenager that they will be safe needs to be part of that discussion. We cannot allow the recent violent news to change our daily lives….we just need to be aware.

Remind your children that adults are all around to protect them.  This includes not only parents, but teachers, administrators, police and security ( that most schools now have).  It saddens me that schools now have “lock down drills”, but again this should be another reassurance that adults have plans to protect children in any number of circumstances.

Lastly, once you have had a discussion….let your child guide you if they have further concerns or questions. And I pray…we will not have to have these discussions again. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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