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Your Teenager’s Toxic Relationship Could Affect Their Health Years Down the Line

Toxic teen relationships are associated with a host of negative long-term health issues, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.

As NBC News reported, researchers pored over 38 studies conducted between 2004 and 2022 that centered teens who experienced dating violence. (Most of these studies were conducted in the United States.) Their meta-analysis incorporated different kinds of dating violence, such as cyberbullying and emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.

Across the board, researchers found that teens — especially young women — who dated controlling, toxic partners in adolescence were more likely to start drinking, smoke cigarettes and/or marijuana, develop depression, and engage in “sexual risk behaviors” like unprotected sex.

They were also more likely to date other toxic partners later in life, perpetuating a cycle of intimate partner violence.

It’s important to note that not all teens who have tumultuous high school relationships will develop long-term health issues. Rather, this research highlights how formative adolescent experiences can be — for better or worse.

“Adolescence is a really fundamentally important time where trajectories are set in terms of where young people are going and how they experience the rest of adulthood,” Dr. Richard Chung, an adolescent medicine specialist at Duke Health who was not involved with the study, told NBC News. “Experiences, whether positive or negative, whether helpful or hurtful, during adolescence can have a lot of consequences.”

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