"I think we were surprised at how many tweens or kids ages 11 and 12 are dealing with these issues," said Jane Randel, V.P. of Corp. Communications at Liz Claiborne Inc.
These relationships are often far from healthy. According to the study, 40 percent of 11 and 12 year-olds say they have friends who've been victims of verbal abuse while dating. But even more disturbing-- 20-percent of 13 and 14 year-olds say they have friends who've experienced dating violence-- such as getting struck, hit or slapped by a boyfriend or girlfriend, and it doesn't stop there.
Many teens and tweens also say they were victims of technological abuse. Those using..
"Cell phones, paging, I-M's social networking sites, where the perpetrator uses those vehicles to perpetrate the abuse."
What's behind all this?
Researchers believe early sexual activity tends to fuel dating violence among teens and tweens, which might explain why 69-percent of teens who had sex by age 14 say they were victims of abuse while in a relationship.
"Parents while they think they know what their teens or more importantly tweens, relationships are, they're really not fully aware of what's going on. And that's scary."
Experts say programs are needed to help parents and their kids recognize unhealthy relationships, and to stop them before they start.