Recognizing and Responding to Teen Dating Violence (TDV) in Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education (HMRE) Programs

Publication Date: August 24, 2020
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High school-based healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) programs, funded by the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, represent one opportunity for reaching youth who are experiencing teen dating violence (TDV) and connecting them with help.


This infographic presents key recommendations and results from the youth-focused component of the Responding to Intimate Violence in Relationship Programs (RIViR) study, which assessed and compared the effectiveness of TDV assessment approaches for identifying youth HMRE program participants who are experiencing TDV so that they can be referred for further services.

Key Findings and Highlights

One in four (25%) youth disclosed TDV. Youth who identified as non-heterosexual were significantly more likely to experience TDV than heterosexual youth. Findings indicated that the tools worked best when administered later in the program and that youth felt more comfortable with staff, and more familiar with options for keeping themselves safe, after the universal education conversation.

Finally, findings indicated that shorter (3-item) tools were more accurate than the original, longer tools implemented for the purposes of the study, and that youth were more likely to disclose TDV when answering questions on tablets than when talking directly with staff.


The RIViR study enrolled 648 youth from two school-based HMRE programs. Participants were invited to complete two questionnaire-style screening tools and a one-on-one universal education conversation with staff, given in random order. Qualitative and quantitative data analysis of data collected from HMRE staff, local domestic violence agency partners, and youth participants examined the accuracy, acceptability, and feasibility of these three approaches to recognizing and responding to IPV.


Findings suggest that HMRE programs working to build organizational capacity and readiness should

  • Actively partner with a local domestic violence program committed to meeting youth needs;
  • Cultivate a warm environment and relatable, non-judgmental staff; and
  • Dedicate staff time to careful planning and information management for responding to TDV.

To create survivor-centered, trauma-informed opportunities for TDV disclosure, study results suggest that HMRE programs should

  • Offer youth more than one opportunity and more than one way to share relationship concerns;
  • Keep questions brief - but be sure to ask about sexual coercion and physical violence; and
  • Educate all youth about warning signs of TDV and where to get help if they need it.

Finally, results suggest that programs can help to protect the safety of TDV survivors by supporting and informing youth who do and do not choose to disclose their TDV experiences to HMRE program staff. HMRE programs should

  • Plan for a confidential follow-up conversation somewhere comfortable and convenient for youth;
  • Offer referrals to a variety of resources, including face-to-face and anonymous online or phone resources; and
  • Recognize that many youth will not disclose; make sure they know where to get help even if they don't want to talk to you.


McKay, T., Kan, M., & Brinton, J. (2020). Responding to Intimate Violence in Relationship Programs: Youth Study Summary. OPRE Report 2020-101. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families. Available at /opre/research/project/responding-to-intimate-violence-in-relationship-programs-rivir.

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