CHICAGO: A surprising number of young teens in the United States are in physically and emotionally abusive dating relationships, according to a survey. Dating relationships and dating abuse can begin as early as age 11, underscoring the need for early education on the subject, the survey found. "The extent of verbal and emotional abuse in early dating is much higher than we had anticipated," said Elizabeth Miller of the University of California Davis, who took part in a news briefing in Washington announcing the findings. The online survey, commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc, included 1,043 so-called "tweens", those aged 11-14; 523 parents of tweens; and 626 teens aged 15-18. It found that one in five 13- to 14-year-olds say they know someone their age that has been physically abused, and nearly half know someone who has been verbally abused in a relationship. The data also suggest that sex in these early relationships increases the risk of abuse. Of teens that had sex by age 14, 33% said they had been kicked, punched, choked, slapped or hit, and 58% said they had been verbally abused. That compared to about 10% of all teens aged 15-18 who were physically abused by a partner, and 29% who had been verbally abused, the survey found. "There is definitely something in the data that suggest to us early onset of sexual activity is not a good thing, that it is clearly associated with dating violence," Miller said in a telephone interview. The findings dovetail with research by Christine Forke of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia published this week in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine. Forke found emotional violence — which includes verbal abuse and subjecting a partner to controlling behavior and put-downs — was the most common type of violence at all ages, especially before college. Forke surveyed students at three urban colleges and found nearly 45% had experienced relationship violence before or during college. The risk of emotional violence is that it can predispose victims to other forms of violence, Forke said.