Date fighting associated with other health risk behaviors

College students who participate in date fighting are more likely to drink alcohol and engage in other health risk behaviors, according to a pediatric researcher at Brenner Children's Hospital, part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

Robert H. DuRant, Ph.D., and his colleagues' research results were published in the March/April issue of The Journal of American College Health.

"For physicians and other health care providers of adolescents, screening for date fight involvement is an important component of well child care." DuRant said. "Date fighting also tends to cluster with other health risk behaviors, such as illegal drug use and risky sexual behaviors."

Violence among young adults has become a significant public health problem, DuRant said. Previous research has found the percentage of adolescents in grades six through 12 who have engaged in dating violence ranges from 7 to 51 percent, depending on how the researchers define dating violence. In the current survey, dating violence was defined as engaging in a physical fight with a date, girlfriend or boyfriend.

"This definition will result in lower percentages of students who report date fighting," DuRant said. "Also, males will tend to under report being the perpetrator of a date fight, particularly when defined this way."

DuRant and colleagues administered the survey to 3,920 undergraduate students at 10 North Carolina universities. Among women, 6.7 percent reported being the victim of a date fight. Date fight victimization was associated with the student also being assaulted recently by another student who had been drinking, having two or more sexual partners within 30 days of the survey, high-risk alcohol consumption in high school, recent illegal drug use and nonsexual assault requiring medical treatment. In addition, 4.2 percent of college women admitted starting a date fight. Initiating a date fight was associated with minority race/ethnicity and use of alcohol, marijuana use and sexual intercourse in the last 30 days.

Among college men, 5.6 percent reported date fight victimization and 1 percent reported date fight perpetration. Victimization was associated with having the first drink at age 15 years or younger, a recent threat of violence by someone who had been drinking, and recent cigarette smoking and amphetamine use.

In addition to DuRant, Health Champion, Ph.D., Kim Wagoner MPH, Ralph B. D'Agostino, Jr., Morrow Omli, MS, Thomas McCoy, MS, and Mark Wolfson, Ph.D., from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and Ananda Mitra, Ph.D. from Wake Forest University also participated in the study.

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