Patterns of intimate partner violence victimization from adolescence to young adulthood in a nationally representative sample

J Adolesc Health. 2009 Nov;45(5):508-16. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.03.011. Epub 2009 May 28.


Purpose: To determine the prevalence of patterns of intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization from adolescence to young adulthood, and document associations with selected sociodemographic and experiential factors.

Methods: We used prospective data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to group 4134 respondents reporting only opposite-sex romantic or sexual relationships in adolescence and young adulthood into four victimization patterns: no IPV victimization, adolescent-limited IPV victimization, young adult onset IPV victimization, and adolescent-young adult persistent IPV victimization.

Results: Forty percent of respondents reported physical or sexual victimization by young adulthood. Eight percent experienced IPV only in adolescence, 25% only in young adulthood, and 7% showed persistent victimization. Female sex, Hispanic and non-Hispanic black race/ethnicity, an atypical family structure (something other than two biologic parents, step-family, single parent), more romantic partners, experiencing childhood abuse, and early sexual debut (before age 16) were each associated with one or more patterns of victimization versus none. Number of romantic partners and early sexual debut were the most consistent predictors of violence, its timing of onset, and whether victimization persisted across developmental periods. These associations did not vary by biological sex.

Conclusions: Substantial numbers of young adults have experienced physical or sexual IPV victimization. More research is needed to understand the developmental and experiential mechanisms underlying timing of onset of victimization, whether victimization persists across time and relationships, and whether etiology and temporal patterns vary by type of violence. These additional distinctions would inform the timing, content, and targeting of violence prevention efforts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Crime Victims*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Sexual Partners*
  • United States
  • Violence* / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult