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Report shines light on affect of age difference in relationships

A report by the National Institute of Health shines a light on how age differences between...
A report by the National Institute of Health shines a light on how age differences between partners affects the younger person in the relationship.(Source: Pixabay)
Updated: Feb. 7, 2019 at 9:29 AM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Our special report “Screen Time Predators” airs on WSFA 12 News Thursday night at 10.

A report by the National Institute of Health shines a light on how age differences between partners affects the younger person in the relationship.

The report, published in 2013, looked at data from surveys completed anonymously by teen girls, as well as other studies on the topic. The results showed that teen girls with older male partners are at a greater risk for adverse sexual health outcomes than other teens.

Previous studies on the issue indicate one explanation for this is that teens have low relationship power when their partner is older. This means the degree to which the teen can act independently of a partner’s control, influence a partner’s actions or dominate decision making is lower. In one cited sample of 56 teen girls, as perceived power in the relationship decreased, reports of emotional abuse increased.

Teen girls in relationships with older partners are more likely to have sex and less likely to use condoms or other forms of contraception, according to the study, with only 24 percent reporting consistent condom use; the study’s discussion, as well as previous findings, suggest engaging in unprotected sex could relate to a fear of violence or negative reactions from older partners, and emotional manipulation may explain inconsistent condom use.

Intimate partner violence is also addressed. Of the study sample, 47 percent reported minor psychological IPV, while 35 percent reported severe psychological violence. As for physical violence, 18 percent of the participants reported minor violence and 18 percent reported severe violence.

The average reported age of the respondents’ partners was nearly 18, while the average age of respondents was 16. The study cited more data is needed to look at the affect of other factors – low relationship power, partner violence – on safe sexual practices, particularly in relationships with a more vast age difference between partners.

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