Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 91, Issue 2, pp 320–334 | Cite as

Adolescent Relationship Violence: Help-Seeking and Help-Giving Behaviors among Peers

  • Deborah A. Fry
  • Adam M. Messinger
  • Vaughn I. Rickert
  • Meghan K. O’Connor
  • Niki Palmetto
  • Harriet Lessel
  • Leslie L. Davidson


Young people tend to disclose relationship violence experiences to their peers, if they disclose at all, yet little is known about the nature and frequency of adolescent help-seeking and help-giving behaviors. Conducted within a sample of 1,312 young people from four New York City high schools, this is the first paper to ask adolescent help-givers about the various forms of help they provide and among the first to examine how ethnicity and nativity impact help-seeking behaviors. Relationship violence victims who had ever disclosed (61 %) were more likely to choose their friends for informal support. Ethnicity was predictive of adolescent disclosure outlets, whereas gender and nativity were not. Latinos were significantly less likely than non-Latinos to ever disclose to only friends, as compared to disclosing to at least one adult. The likelihood of a young person giving help to their friend in a violent relationship is associated with gender, ethnicity, and nativity, with males being significantly less likely than females to give all forms of help to their friends (talking to their friends about the violence, suggesting options, and taking action). Foreign-born adolescents are less likely to talk or suggest options to friends in violent relationships. This study also found that Latinos were significantly more likely than non-Latinos to report taking action with or on behalf of a friend in a violent relationship. This research shows that adolescents often rely on each other to address relationship violence, underlining the importance of adolescents’ receipt of training and education on how to support their friends, including when to seek help from more formal services. To further understand the valuable role played by adolescent peers of victims, future research should explore both which forms of help are perceived by the victim to be most helpful and which are associated with more positive outcomes.


Dating violence Relationship violence Help-giving Help-seeking Adolescents Peer support 



This research was supported by funding from the New York City Council and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the policies or views of the funders.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah A. Fry
    • 1
  • Adam M. Messinger
    • 2
  • Vaughn I. Rickert
    • 3
  • Meghan K. O’Connor
    • 4
  • Niki Palmetto
    • 5
  • Harriet Lessel
    • 6
  • Leslie L. Davidson
    • 7
  1. 1.University of Edinburgh/NSPCC Child Protection Research CentreEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Justice Studies Department at Northeastern Illinois UniversityChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Indiana University School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA
  4. 4.International Womens’ Program at the Open Society InstituteNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.Epidemiology division at Pfizer Inc.New YorkUSA
  6. 6.NYC Alliance Against Sexual AssaultNew YorkUSA
  7. 7.Center for Youth Violence Prevention at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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