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49% of Teens have Experienced Abuse in Dating

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When we think of abusive relationships, we often think of adults with dysfunctional, toxic partners. However, abusive relationships among dating teens is on the rise. According to a recent study revealed at the most recent meeting of the American Psychological Association, an overwhelming 49% of teens have experienced some form of abuse in their romantic relationships.

According to an article in DatingAdvice.com, Based on 2011 and 2012 data from a Growing Up with Media survey of 1,058 teens between the ages of 14 and 20, researchers concluded that almost half of adolescents who have dated someone have been victims of violence at least once in their lives, and astoundingly, 46 percent have been the perpetrator of violence.

Abusive relationships can take on many forms, but most often when we think of abuse, we think of physical or sexual abuse. However, some types of abuse are emotional or psychological, and therefore harder to identify or understand. Such is the case with many abusive teen relationships. Roughly 21% of teen relationships in the study were found to involve sexual or physical abuse. As is more often the case, the majority of abusive relationships tend to be emotional, especially with use of digital technology to manipulate a romantic relationship.

Emotional abuse seems to account for a large majority of the study’s results as it can come in various forms ranging from verbal name-calling to psychological manipulation. This type of abuse happens often via texting and digital means, as well as in person.

Another surprising result noted in the study was that the overall rates of teen dating violence are similar for both boys and girls. Twenty-nine percent of girls and 24% of boys admitted to playing the role of both victim and abuser in their relationships. Researchers discovered there was a lot of overlap in those who had been abused and those who were victim to it.

Researchers at the American Psychological Association said that violence should be studied more specifically, instead of categorizing those in relationships as either “victims” or “abusers,” as there is more of a gray line. This lack of understanding of the whole picture can lead to ineffective prevention of violent relationships.

Researchers acknowledged that young people who experience abusive relationships are more apt to enter into adulthood with emotional challenges, such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse issues. Almost a quarter of women who reported experiencing partner violence as adults had also experienced some type of abuse when they were young.

Should Dating Services Promote Safer Sex?

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Digital dating services have helped millions of people worldwide find love, but critics say they've also increased public health risk. The use of dating sites and apps continues to rise, causing some to believe STIs are on the rise as a result.

Rhode Island health officials recently reported that the state has seen an uptick in a number of STIs over the last year. Between 2013 and 2014, the number of RI citizens diagnosed with syphilis increased by 79%. The numbers of newly diagnosed HIV patients and cases of gonorrhea also increased, by 33% and 30%, respectively.

Rhode Island’s health department says the increase in diagnoses is due in part to better and more frequent access to STI screening, but also believes dating services are at fault for allowing users to easily “arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters.”

This is not the first time dating services have been accused of fueling rising STI rates, but others believe the accusations are unwarranted.

In a study published in 2007 in the journal AIDS Care, Dr. Brian Mustanski, a professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, concluded that those already prone to high-risk sex use dating services to meet partners, not that meeting partners online causes high-risk sex.

Still, a number of dating apps have taken steps to address the issue. Gay dating app Hornet, for example, prompts users to update their HIV status every three months. Scruff, another app for gay men, gives free and geographically targeted banner ads to local non-profits that work with the LGBT community, some of which address sexual health. There are also niche dating services that cater to users who know their STI status.

David Semerad, the CEO of STRV, a mobile and digital agency that has helped develop a number of dating apps, told Newsweek “There's so much power in the hand of these apps. If a dating app is a big part of your life, it has a huge impact on your decisions. You need to make it cool to be healthy and get tested often.”

Mustanski also believes dating companies should support larger public health efforts, though he doesn't see a direct correlation between online dating and risky sexual behavior. He says research shows people are most likely to take positive actions regarding their health when they're pointed directly to a place for help, like a dating app offering GPS directions to the nearest clinic for STI screening.

Weigh in: should dating services help promote safer sex?

Are Dating Apps to Blame in the Rise of STDs?

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Popular dating apps like Tinder and Grindr have a reputation of being so-called "hook-up" apps. While more and more people are turning to dating apps to meet singles for long-term love and/ or a casual affair, this trend appears to coincide with a rise in the rates of syphilis and HIV, too.

Public health officials in Rhode Island released a health report last week stating that there has been a 79% rise in syphilis cases in the state between 2013 and 2014, and that it’s attributable in part to the use of social media and dating apps to arrange casual or anonymous hookups. People having unprotected sex, multiple sex partners, and having sex under the influence of drugs and alcohol were also cited as reasons for the increase in STDs.

“These new data underscore the importance of encouraging young people to begin talking to a doctor, nurse, or health educator about sexual health before becoming sexually active and especially after becoming sexually active,” Rosemary Reilly-Chamma of the Rhode Island Department of Education said in the report.

A rise in STDs, particularly HIV and syphilis, were also reported in New York, Utah, and Texas, where officials have warned of increased risk of transmission. The New York City Health Department announced earlier this year that men in the neighborhood of Chelsea had the highest infection rate of syphilis in the country.

Anindya Ghose, co-author of a study that monitored the rise of STDs along with the launch of Craiglist personals ads, believes that online dating apps have had a similar effect. "Basically what the Internet does is makes it a lot easier to find a casual partner," he told VICE News. "Without the Internet you'd have to put effort into casual relationships, chatting with someone at the bar or hanging out in places, but these platforms make it a lot more convenient and easy. That's essentially what the primary driver is."

Others disagree, citing a lack of education and resources, especially for young people, the largest group at risk. They argue that community health providers, doctors, and even schools should educate people about the risks of not using condoms and other protection when engaging in casual sex. Access to condoms and affordable healthcare are two big concerns.

Social media and dating apps make it easier to meet people, but they didn’t create the problem of STD risk. They magnified a problem that already existed – casual sexual encounters without adequate knowledge of safety and protection leave people vulnerable to risk.

Is There Such a Thing as too Much Choice?

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Online dating is evolving along with daters’ preferences. We have grown used to the idea of using technology for our personal lives, with more people online dating than ever (thanks to the rise of dating apps like Tinder).

The dating landscape has changed, even in the last few years. There is new technology of course, but there is also the growing number of singles (which consist of more than half of U.S. adults over age 18), and the fact that young adults are waiting longer to marry. So college isn’t the place you’re likely to meet your life partner – instead, it’s more likely going to be online.

With so much changing and so many singles out there, why is it still so hard to find the right person, or even to get a date from a few back-and-forth texts?

The answer might be simpler than you think. There have been several studies in recent years about our ability to make decisions, especially when we are given a lot of choices. Much like wandering into a candy store when you just want a bite of something sweet, your mind can be immediately overloaded with all the different types, brands, and flavors – so that you almost become paralyzed by the choices and unable to make a decision.

A study was conducted a few years back, where a group of people were given a choice between a few different brands of laundry detergents and asked to pick which one they’d buy. With only three or four choices, they tended to read the labels of ingredients and decide which was best based on content. They were also generally pleased with their choices.

The next group was given dozens of choices of laundry detergent. Researchers discovered when there were more than a few choices, people didn’t take any longer in making a decision - they were too overwhelmed and didn’t read the labels at all. The majority chose which detergent they would buy based solely on what the container looked like, and didn’t look at the ingredients. In fact – they were basing their decisions purely on superficial “looks,” because it was easier than trying to get to know all of their choices.

It’s no wonder we feel a bit ADD when it comes to dating, and that apps like Tinder have taken off. When we are given too much choice, it’s easier to just look at the photo and make an impulsive decision – yes or no - rather than think about what we really want. We don’t get to know people before deciding we aren’t interested in a date or even a drink. It’s too easy to think “there’s probably someone even better” while we are swiping, so we don't think twice about standing someone up or refusing to text them back.

Maybe it’s time to focus on one date at a time. Maybe we should start saying yes more often - instead of no.

You’re Not Alone – Everyone Else Is Single Too

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The times, they are a-changin’. In fact, they’re more than changing. They’re completely transforming. Evolving, even.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of American adults are now single. This is the first time single adults have outnumbered married adults since 1976, when the BLS started keeping track in the first place.

Back in August, there were 124.6 million single Americans – a number that counts for 50.2% of the 16-and-over US population. 0.2% may not seem like a big number, but it's statistically relevant and, more importantly, it's socially relevant.

Eric Klinenberg, an NYU sociology professor who researches marriage trends, told the New York Post he believes that margin will remain the same for the foreseeable future, but that change is still afoot. “I don’t expect the proportion of singles to go much higher, but it could go up a bit more,” he said. “Marriage rates are going down all over the developed world as people experiment with new ways to organize their lives and their relationships.”

That, in turn, could have social, political, and economic ripple effects. On the whole, single Americans prefer to rent housing rather than purchase it. They're also less likely to have children. Trends like these, and others in a similar vein, mean major changes in spending are probably on the way. A third of young adults still live with their parents, and even those who don't are concerned they can't afford to participate in marriage and other aspects of the American dream like generations before. Maybe the dream itself will change.

Of course, it's important to note that "single" in this context simply means "not married." Plenty of folks in that 16-and-over category are probably casually coupled up or settled into serious, long-term partnerships. “Just because people are not getting married doesn’t mean they’re not partnering and cohabitating,” said Karen Guzzo, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University, to the Post.

And it seems that even though marriage rates have plummeted, plenty of young people still hope to get hitched. According to Gallup survey data, only 9% of Americans in the 18 to 34 age range say they both have never been married and do not ever want to marry. 54% of Americans are currently married and 21% of those who have never been married say they want to tie the knot someday.

In the meantime, those 21% can join the 9% in celebrating National Unmarried and Single Americans Week – because yes, that's a real thing.

CoFounder of OkCupid Launches a New Book Mining User Data

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Ever wanted to get inside the minds of thousands of daters to see what makes everyone tick? Maybe that seems cool, or maybe you’d rather sit in a dentist’s chair for five hours, but either way – it does make you curious.

So it’s no surprise that OkCupid Co-Founder Christian Rudder has decided to harness the power of OkCupid’s user data and create a book that piques our curiosity. After all, we all watched with fascination as the dating site’s blog OkTrends revealed its latest research, informing us of what types of people we are attracted to, we’re doing wrong in our online dating profiles, or how to effectively message other users. Rudder found interesting trends in the details, helping us ask questions we didn’t even know to ask. For instance, why does the angle of the camera matter in a photo, or how you smile? Why is it preferable to write a less descriptive profile? Why is it more attractive to have a guitar in your hand than a tennis racket, or possess an unusually-shaped nose than to be considered average-looking? Or the million-dollar question: what do people lie about the most when they are online dating?

OkCupid has given us the sometimes surprising preferences of online daters, based on all of the data they mine from their thousands of users. Because of the site’s format of creative questions and answers, it’s allowed them to dig deeper than most.

OkTrends has been on hiatus since 2011, when Rudder started taking the information to compile it into a book, rather than just posting the information for free on their website. Rudder’s new book is called Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking), which comes out on Sept. 9 and examines interactions for insights into whom and how we date.

For one of Dataclysm’s studies, Rudder analyzed how men and women approach attraction. It turns out that as women get older, they like older men. Men, on the other hand, consistently prefer younger and younger women. Men will message women close to their own age, but only up to a point. For example, men in their mid-40s rarely talk to women older than 30. “We have a lot of serial daters on the site—men who just keep dating women 10 years younger than they are,” Rudder told Business Week in a recent interview. “Eventually their tactics start to fail, and the young ladies they’re messaging begin rejecting them. The result is a lot of 40-year-old men and women who find it hard to get a date.”

OkCupid isn’t worried about user backlash for mining their personal data. Rudder recently wrote a post to address this issue, pointing out that all websites experiment on users, admitting that OkCupid once tested its matchmaking algorithm by telling users who were not suited for each other that they were a near-perfect match. “We got maybe five complaints,” Rudder told Business Week.

Since OkCupid users don’t pay for the site or its advice, does Rudder have an audience willing to buy his book? We’ll have to wait and see.

Check out our review of OkCupid for more information on this popular dating site.