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Sexuality is a natural, human trait. In adolescence, we experience ificant physical, psychological, and social changes related to our sexuality. We also explore behaviors, values, and feelings which in turn shape our identities. Sexual health is determined by life choices, social and structural factors, and access to education and services.

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Domestic violence is common among adults, and women are most frequently the victims. In fact, nearly half of women killed by homicide in the United States are killed by their former or current intimate partners.

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Now a new study finds that this kind of violence also poses a risk to the lives of adolescent girls. The study found that of the more than 2, adolescents killed between andnearly 7 percent — teens — were killed by their current or former intimate partners. Ninety percent of the victims were female, and their average age was around 17 years old.

In almost 80 percent of the cases, the perpetrator was 18 years or older. It's not something to brush off as 'This is just an argument between kids. The study might be the first to offer a national estimate for deaths of teenagers due to dating violence, says Anita Rajwho directs the Center for Gender Equity and Health at University of California San Diego and wasn't involved in the new study.

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Adhia and her colleagues looked at information from law enforcement, the medical examiner or the coroner's office records for each case. And they found that firearms, especially handguns, were the most common cause for injury, ing for 61 percent of cases. That is more likely to end in the partner being killed. The new study also explored the precipitating events for these deaths. The most common reasons were the victim breaking up with the perpetrator or refusing to start a relationship with them.

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That ed for 27 percent of cases. The perpetrator's jealousy was also included in this group. In one study, she and her colleagues brought in to year-olds to discuss relationship conflicts they were facing.

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The most frequent issue raised by the teens was jealousy of their partners, she says. And breakups, she adds, are a particularly volatile and dangerous time in abusive relationships.

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When they're breaking up, they lash out, and they're trying to hurt the other person. About 25 percent of the cases were triggered by heated arguments between the victim and the perpetrator, making this the second most common precipitating event. Reckless use of firearms also led to some deaths, whereas others happened because the victim was pregnant and the perpetrator did not want to have the baby or they feared arrest for statutory rape. The are "shocking and frightening," but "unfortunately, it's not surprising," says Megan Bair-Merritta pediatrician at Boston Medical Centre and Boston University School of Medicine, who wrote an accompanying editorial on the study.

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Young survivors of intimate partner violence are at a higher risk of being in abusive relationships in the future, Raj says. The new findings raise two important questions about prevention and intervention, Bair-Merritt says. She says adults should speak openly to children about relationships even before they are dating. It's also important for kids to have many "safe adults" in their lives, adds Bair-Merritt.

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These are adults — parents, teachers, coaches, pastors, grandparents — who the teens feel comfortable with and trust, who they can reach out to during stressful experiences. The more [connections], the better. And pediatricians have a big role in preventing and intervening in teen dating violence, she writes in the editorial.

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Most teens see their pediatrician at least once a year. And most children have known their pediatricians for years, so they are more likely to trust them for information about dating relationships, she says. Health care professionals should be aware of s that suggest their teen patients may be in abusive relationships, she writes in the editorial. Intimate partner violence has been shown to put teens at increased risk of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

Teen dating violence can lead to homicide — and girls are the most common victims

Pediatricians can look for s of these mental health problems, social isolation and changes in their performance at school. Limiting access to guns is also part of the solution, Capaldi says. Parents should speak to their kids about gun safety, she says, and ensure that any guns in their homes are kept in safe places. They should also ask their kids if the person they are dating owns or has access to a gun. School nurses and counselors can spot s of dating abuse and help support the victims, she says. Schools that don't have the necessary resources to help should connect victims to community resources, like counseling centers or relevant nonprofit organizations.

There are several evidence-based programs that teach adolescents relationship skills and how to avoid intimate partner violenceAdhia notes. The U. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a list of such programs.

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And there are hotlines specifically for teens facing intimate partner violence, such as the National Teen Dating Abuse helpline, adds Bair-Merritt. Teenagers can call or text LOVEIS to and be connected with a professional trained to gauge whether they are in immediate danger, how scared they are feeling, whether they or their partner have access to firearms and to help individuals get out of unsafe situations.

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Teenagers can also chat with someone for help at. Copyright NPR. Search Query Show Search. IPR News.

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IPR Music. Support IPR. Show Search Search Query. Play Live Radio. Next Up:. Available On Air Stations. All Streams. By Rhitu Chatterjee. Facebook Twitter LinkedIn. research shows that jealousy is a common issue in teen relationships, Capaldi says.

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Dating violence is common The are "shocking and frightening," but "unfortunately, it's not surprising," says Megan Bair-Merritta pediatrician at Boston Medical Centre and Boston University School of Medicine, who wrote an accompanying editorial on the study. Dating violence among adolescents is "incredibly common," she says. Schools can also be a big part of the solution, Capaldi says. Tags NPR News. Rhitu Chatterjee. Rhitu Chatterjee is a health correspondent with NPR, with a focus on mental health.

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In addition to writing about the latest developments in psychology and psychiatry, she reports on the prevalence of different mental illnesses and new developments in treatments. See stories by Rhitu Chatterjee.