7 Facts About Teen Dating Abuse: Smothering and Obsessive Youth

teen-dating-abuseRecently, there was an article in the New York Times about the rise of teen dating abuse. I wanted to write a quick article about this to draw attention to the issue for parents.

Fortunately, I have not had any personal experience, nor have I known anyone to ever experience (or admit to experiencing) teenage abusive relationships.  This does not mean that it is not a serious issue.  The fact that I have not heard anything, with all of the teens I work with, makes me believe that it might be more secret than less prevalent.

One major trend I have seen is the obsessiveness that young couples can have.  Here are some ideas to be aware of:

1) Low self-esteem causes different behavior

If teenagers, or anyone has low self-esteem it can cause them to be more desperate for connection or control.  Teenagers, developmentally tend to have lower self-esteem as their bodies change.  Low self-esteem can also cause couples to be more jealous and needy of each other, which can be a precursor to abuse.

2) Control can be addictive

I talk to teenagers all day long about what they are anxious about.  Many of them feel very out of control and this scares them.   Teens tend to rarely be in control; rather they are usually being controlled.  They are controlled by parents, teachers, principles, counselors, coaches, colleges and bosses.  What they can control is another teenager and this can over extension of control can be a form of abuse.

3) Control and monitoring is now easier

It is actually easy to smother someone without even realizing it.  We can text, MySpace message, Facebook stalk, call, IM, BBIM, email or ping.  I have often written about teens need to constantly be connected and abuse often stems from people needing to be connected to another more frequently.  Smothering, which might not be abusive, but is abnormal nonetheless, is so much easier in a digital age.

4) Obsessiveness can go unnoticed

Because everyone is connected all the time, teens might not even realize how obsessed or compulsive they are with the other person.  This allows the behavior to continue far longer and at a much higher rate than ever before.

5) Inequality breeds discomfort

This concept is nothing new.  I have heard young couples talk about inequality in relationships.  The idea of “who has the power” is something that teens today are much more aware of.  It is the reason men wait 3 days to call a girl back (need to be the one with the power) and no one wants to say “I love you” first.  This kind of thinking, can lead to abuse or unhealthy relationships.

6) Abuse does not only have to be physical

Abuse can be emotional, verbal, psychological or physical.  This is an important idea to explain to new couples.  Often times, someone in the relationship (see inequality above) feels uncomfortable, but is afraid to say anything because they think it is normal or would not qualify as abuse.

7) Lack of connection means they need more to connect on

The cotton candy friend epidemic is a huge issue because teens are not feeling as connected or intimate with their friends because all of their interaction is so superficial.  This can make young people, who are starving for closeness, crave a smothering or obsessive relationship more than previous generations.

Please print out this article and discuss it with your kids or if your child is in a relationship, ask them to gauge their connection—this can be a great way for you to get to know your teens!

Have your own suggestions and additions on this topic? I hope so! Of course, as always feel free to leave them in the comments.  But, I started the first editable parenting book on a wiki.  Here I am having you, my readers publish and edit my articles and add to them as they please:

-Like Wikipedia, but for parents!
-If you are a blogger, you can post link to your articles on the topic for other readers.
-Vote on your favorite parenting advice
-See what teens think of your advice (they vote too!)

Check out the editable version of this article on Teen Dating Abuse and Obsessive Relationships in our Wiki and other reader’s additions here!

This post is dedicated to Anna Goslicka who has one of the most beautiful relationships with her husband and has listened to possibly hours or my own relationship issues with an open heart and the best advice.

If you like this blog…

If you have a second…

If you are just feeling generous…

Please vote for me on the Bloggers Choice Awards!

It takes two seconds to register and I am going for best parenting blog.


27 Responses to “7 Facts About Teen Dating Abuse: Smothering and Obsessive Youth”

  1. lisaf-breakingthecycles
    January 26, 2009 at 4:53 pm #

    Thank you so much for writing about this subject — it’s such an important topic.

    Something else that contributes to teen dating abuse is teen alcohol abuse. Binge drinking in adults is defined as 4 or more for women and 5 or more for men, but teens are encouraged not to drink at all because of the critical brain development occurring until age 21 (and even until 25), yet recent Monitoring the Future surveys show 45% of 12th graders and 34% of tenth graders reported using alcohol in the past month, with 29% of 12th graders binge drinking and 22% of 10th graders doing the same. When you move onto college years, the numbers are even more staggering. What teens do not understand is that alcohol affects their developing brains differently than it does the brain of an adult’s (who has not been abusing alcohol).

    The point is that abusive drinking leads to unplanned and unintended behaviors regardless of age (arguments, fights, sex), which in turn leave couples feeling confused, sad, contrite, desperate for forgiveness and angry. These feelings and a desire to “make it up,” can exacerbate some of the behaviors you’ve outlined above.

    Thanks, again, for this post!

  2. MOM
    January 30, 2009 at 9:49 am #

    Thank you so much for this information!

  3. fathersez
    February 1, 2009 at 12:11 am #

    I am a dad and we almost had this problem when one of our daughters started dating a real “ne’re do well”. It never came to the stage as shown in the picture.

    My wife and I managed to convince our girl that this guy was a deadbeat. It is now history.

    More parents should know and understand this problem.

  4. Stuffgirlswant
    April 17, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    It’s good that you put out there that abuse doesn’t always have to be physical. I see so many of these boys verbally abusing their girlfriends and no one does anything about it. Really messes up the girl’s self esteem.
    Thank you for a great article!

  5. Vanessa Van Petten
    April 18, 2009 at 12:21 pm #

    Of course! It is an important topic that is for sure


  6. Understanding
    May 2, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    I now understand that my ex girlfriend and her over obsession was actuly abuse. 8 Months of that. It got to that point because i let her and after a while it became normal to me.

  7. Vanessa Van Petten
    May 3, 2009 at 5:36 pm #


    Thanks for adding this, so happy you realized obsession can be unhealthy and dangerous.


  8. EricaandSam
    May 20, 2009 at 8:12 am #

    this inspired our Public Sevice Announement for video class. such an important topic! thanks so much.

  9. diannae
    May 21, 2009 at 3:13 pm #

    I feel so bad for you. God Bless you,at least you servived it many people dont

  10. Vanessa Van Petten
    May 25, 2009 at 10:04 am #

    really??? That is sooo great, thanks!


  11. amy
    June 8, 2009 at 9:46 am #

    hi im 13 and im really sorry i wish i could help

  12. Jackie
    August 5, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

    I’m 13 and I used to have a friend that was in an abusive relationship. We are no longer friends because she was the abuser and my best guy friend was the abusie. He broke up with her and now instead of physical abuse she is abusing him verbaly. She does the same thing to me even though I do my best to ignore her texts, but sometimes I just can’t put up with it and give her a peice of my mind. Although it never makes her stop it makes me feel better to tell her to back off because she isn’t going to get the reaction she wants out of me. My guy friend is alright now, but we had a little bit of a scare and were scared that he was permanently damaged. He started acting weird and so we had him talk to the counsiler and now it is ok. But I’m still worried that it could become physical again with them, or it could become physical with me and her. I just hope that the situation starts to die down once school starts.

    Thanks for posting this because it is often conciderd a minor thing, but it isn’t.

  13. Ariel
    October 21, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    I know someone in an abusive relationship but they refuse to seek help to get out. And i just happen to be writing a paper about teen abuse in journalism and stumbled across this article. How can I help her see that her partner dosen’t really love her like she beleives he does

  14. Vanessa Van Petten
    October 30, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

    If she is in danger, which it sounds like she is. You must get an adult involved so she knows how dangerous and serious this is.


  15. angel
    November 3, 2009 at 1:06 pm #

    my boyfriend cheats on my all the time then he beats me..yesterday he srached me then punched me in the arm and smaked me then threw a buket of cold water on me im only 17 years old and i just wanted to get this off of my cheast

  16. Vanessa Van Petten
    November 11, 2009 at 10:33 pm #


    You need to ask for help. This is not your fault but you deserve better and I worry about your safety. Please tell someone you trust, a parent a counselor or teacher. ok ?


  17. myeisha
    December 3, 2009 at 6:50 am #

    omg that is a shame like u need to get out of there now like ur face is a mess like who will do thaT TO U BUT IN YOUR FACE IT LOOK LIKE U LIKE IT OR SOME THING MMMMMMMMMMMMMM U NEED HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLPPPPP

  18. Amber Hill
    January 26, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    I thnk that you need to call a Teen abuse line! You shouldn’t live your life in fear! I knw I wouldn’t. I thnk that you need to talk to someone that you trust! If you don’t trust your parents like I don’t trust mine talk to your school counselor or take my advice and call a Teen Hotline! It helps when you are in need of help. I was in an abusive relationship when I was 16 and it suckd! I was beat and punched and eveythng else you could possibly imagine! Anyway I thnk that you should seriously seek out help!

  19. Sophia Grace
    May 15, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    I liked this article, but I think that the abused should be mentioned a little more along with the abuser. We sometimes forget that teens in abusive relationships are putting up with the abuse for a reason. Some are convinced they are in love and are afraid they will never find anyone as good as or better than their partner. Other abused teens think that they are going to try and “fix” the other and end up in a never-ending abuse cycle that doesn’t change the other person and only causes misery in the relationship. As a teen, I see so many couples that are in abusive situations. And, as a teen, I can say that I was in an abusive relationship. I never really dated the boy, but I had convinced myself that I was in love with him, and he took advantage of it. I was his flirt-toy, for him to talk sweet to when he didn’t have another girlfriend. Or sometimes when he did have a girlfriend. I eventually got a clue, thank goodness. But other girls (or boys) aren’t as lucky, and it’s a vicious cycle. I think teens need to be able to recognize when their relationship is abusive and need to know how to finally end those relationships. Its hard, even when you know you’re abused, to let go of what you thought you loved. I did it eventually because I realized that he wasn’t what I loved. I loved the person I thought he was. It was easier for me to let go, then, because I knew I didn’t love him, just a version of him I’d made up in my own mind. Anyway, I liked this topic and I’m really loving reading the articles, even just as a teen.

    Sophia Grace (blog pen name)

  20. The 7 ideas on dealing with an abusive teenager is great. I will sure to share this with others. Norbert Georget

  21. Chelsea
    October 13, 2010 at 7:14 am #

    This is an excellent article. I want to re-emphasize that abuse doesn’t have to include physical. To quote Oprah, love is a verb. It is expressed in actions, not just words. Someone who is hurtful to you through their words and their physical actions is not someone who loves you. Get help and get out.

  22. josefine
    December 11, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    This is a very important topic, however no one seems to talk about the consequences of obsessive relationships during the teenage years. I can tell you, a major consequence is teenage suicide. Young girl especially girls who are the abuser in the relationship have a greater chance of suicidal behavior. I know. Been there. Everyone is talking about teenage substance issues like drugs but they are missing the real point, for some girls the boyfriend is the drug and when no fulfilled they get seriously depressed. Also these kind of relationship also have consequences for the future like psychopathic disorders, low self esteem but also major depressive disorders. Please if you’re a parent? acknowledge the issue. HELP THEM BEFORE İTS TO LATE.


  1. Sunday Reading - February 2, 2009

    […] Van Petten give us 7 facts about teen dating abuse that all parents should […]

  2. Breakingthecycles.com - Changing the Conversations » Blog Archive » Recent Great Articles - February 14, 2009

    […] 7 Facts About Teen Dating Abuse: Smothering and Obsessive Youth, http://www.onteenstoday.com/2009/01/26/7-facts-about-teen-dating-abuse-smothering-and-obsessive-yout… […]

  3. Where Families Connect » Blog Archive » Dating Violence among Teens - March 16, 2009

    […] On Teens Today): Vanessa Van Petten, who I consistently link to on this blog, gives parents 7 Facts about Teen Dating Abuse.  The advice is based on cultural changes that affect teen relationships and make for a higher […]

  4. Accepting No. « Lauramack's Blog - May 17, 2010

    […] for some information from a teen’s perspective, check out Radical Parenting.   This is a fabulous blog written by Vanessa Van Petten and about 80 other teen writers.  This […]

  5. Tech-enabled dating abuse - Connect Safely - April 29, 2013

    […] “7 Facts About Teen Dating Abuse: Smothering and Obsessive Youth,” Vanessa Van Petten at RadicalParenting.com points to a reason why some kids (people, […]

Leave a Reply