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Violence affects many teenage girls in the United States, most of whom are attacked at home or in the home of a friend

Violence affects many teenage girls in the United States. Adolescent girls (12 to 18 years) with preexisting psychosocial or medical problems appear to be particularly vulnerable to serious injury and are more likely than adolescent boys to be attacked in their own home or a friend's home.

We may need to target adolescent girls and boys with different violence prevention strategies, according to researchers from New England Medical Center. They analyzed assault injury data from pediatric trauma centers in 45 States and national homicide data from 1989 to 1999 to determine if there were differences in victim characteristics, injury severity, and injury mechanisms among adolescent boys and girls.

The researchers found that adolescent girls were nearly twice as likely as adolescent boys to have preexisting cognitive or psychosocial impairments, which have been associated with risk of alcohol and other drug abuse linked to date rape. Adolescent boys were 1.75 times more likely than girls to be injured in school and 2.27 times more likely to be injured in a public place than a home. However, adolescent girls were over twice as likely to have been injured in their home or at another residence than a public place. This suggests that girls are likely to be intentionally injured by a friend, acquaintance, or intimate partner, perhaps reflecting higher rates of domestic and date-associated violence seen in adolescent girls.

Adolescent girls were twice as likely as boys to be stabbed than shot, while boys were twice as likely to be shot than stabbed. Gunshot and stabbing injuries declined much less for girls than boys during the 10-year period (28 vs. 7 percent). A decline in homicide rates from 1990 to 1997 also was less pronounced for adolescent girls than boys. These findings suggest the failure of public health messages that focus mainly on violence risks among adolescent boys. They also underscore the need to refine messages targeted to adolescent girls, especially advice on how to prevent attacks at home or in the home of a friend, conclude the researchers. This study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (National Research Service Award training grant T32 HS00060).

See "Serious injuries and deaths of adolescent girls resulting from interpersonal violence," by Harry Moskowitz, M.D., John L. Griffith, Ph.D., Carla DiScala, Ph.D., and Robert D. Sege, M.D., Ph.D., in the August 2001 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 155, pp. 903-908.

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