Coaches can Stop Teen Dating Violence

Teen violence rate against girls drops when boys are exposed to coaching program

(RxWiki News) An effective high school athletics coach can play two important roles: Get his Xs to beat your Os. And be a counter against adolescent dating violence.

Researchers from the University of California-Davis in Sacramento have found that young males exposed to a program called “Coaching Boys into Men,” have committed fewer acts of dating violence against girls than young males who are not in the program.

"Talk to your school administrator if you feel your child is a victim of violence."

Elizabeth Miller, a member of the faculty of the University of California Davis School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics said with the right training, coaches can encourage their athletes to be positive leaders in their communities.

Boys who were exposed to the program, "were more likely to say or do something to stop disrespectful and harmful behaviors towards girls which they witnessed among their male peers," says Miller. "...coaches can be such important role models for athletes."

One in three adolescent girls in the United States has been physically, emotionally, or verbally abused by her dating partner, according to the study.

The study looked at more than 2,000 young male athletes in 16 high schools across four inner-city school districts in Sacramento between winter 2009 and fall 2010. Eight of the schools were selected for the program and the other schools served as comparisons.

Before their respective seasons, the student-athletes were given a 15-minute survey to assess their attitudes about violence towards adolescent girls, and they were given another 15-minute survey after their season ended. The survey asked the young males what they thought of behaviors such as:

  • Telling girls which friends they can or cannot talk to.
  • Telling girls they are ugly or stupid.

The survey also asked if the young males agreed with these statements:

  • If a girl is raped it is often because she did not say no clearly enough.
  • A boy/man will lose respect if he talks about his problems.

The surveys asked whether the young males had ever witnessed or participated in physical, sexual, or emotional abuse toward a female partner in the past three months, and they were asked if they had ever stopped abusive behavior.

The young males who were exposed to the “Coaching Boys to Men” program were more likely to try and stop violence toward girls than the control group, according to the study.

"This study reminds us that in order to prevent violence before it happens, we need to take advantage of the positive influence that coaches have in shaping young athletes' attitudes towards women and girls." said Esta Soler, president of Futures Without Violence. "We hope these findings will spotlight the importance of dating violence and sexual assault prevention and encourage other schools to implement similar programs."

The study was led by University of California-Davis researchers in Sacramento between winter 2009 and fall 2010.  The research was published online March 26, 2012, in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study was funded by the CDC. The authors stated no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
April 3, 2012