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One difference between adolescent and adult relationships is the absence of elements traditionally associated with greater male power in adult relationships. Adolescent girls are not typically dependent on romantic partners for financial stability, and they are less likely to have children to provide for and protect.
The study of seventh, ninth and 11th graders in Toledo, for example, found that a majority of the boys and girls who were interviewed said they had a relatively "equal say" in their romantic relationships. Huebner, "Severe Dating Violence and Quality of Life Among South Carolina High School Students," 19 (2000): 220-227.
Some experts hold that men and women are mutually combative and that this behavior should be seen as part of a larger pattern of family conflict.
This finding was at odds with what practitioners attending the workshop said they encounter in their professional experience.They contend that men in patriarchal societies use violence to exert and maintain power and control over women. These experts also maintain that "act" scales do not accurately reflect the nature of violence in intimate relationships because they do not consider the degree of injury inflicted, coercive and controlling behaviors, the fear induced, or the context in which the acts occurred. Studies using "act" scales, they contend, lack information on power and control and emphasize the more common and relatively minor forms of aggression rather than more severe, relatively rare forms of violence in dating and intimate partner relationships. Instead, supporters of this perspective use data on injuries and in-depth interviews with victims and perpetrators. We believe, however, that applying either of these adult perspectives to adolescents is problematic. Although both views of adult intimate partner violence can help inform our understanding of teen dating violence, it is important to consider how adolescent romantic relationships differ from adult romantic relationships in several key areas. These studies tend to show that women report perpetrating slightly more physical violence than men. It is interesting to note that most studies on teen dating violence that have been conducted to date have relied primarily on "act" scales.
Another group of experts holds that men generally perpetrate serious intimate partner violence against women. Most of the practitioners in attendance — representing national organizations, schools and victim service community-based agencies — said that they primarily see female victims, and when they discuss teen dating violence with students, they hear that boys are the primary perpetrators. Because teen dating violence has only recently been recognized as a significant public health problem, the complex nature of this phenomenon is not fully understood.