Teen girls seem to abuse their dates more than boys do

Considerably more boys than girls say their dates yell at them, demean them, pinch them, slap them, and out-and-out attack them, according to preliminary findings in a study on dating violence, reported the Ottawa Citizen Dec. 5. Researchers caution they have not started analyzing the figures for the Teen Relationship Project, a collaborative project between York University and Queen’s University. Yet they were surprised to find slightly more than 20 per cent of boys reporting major abuse, compared with just less than 20 per cent of girls; roughly 30 per cent of boys experiencing minor abuse compared with just over 20 per cent of girls; and almost half of the boys reporting verbal abuse compared to roughly 45 per cent of girls.

The project surveyed an estimated 2,000 teenagers in about a dozen Quebec and Ontario high schools over three years. Participants were asked about their attitudes toward date aggression, how often it happened and in what context. It will be two years or so before the study reaches its final conclusions. “It’s a very controversial and difficult finding to interpret,” said psychologist Jennifer Connolly, director of York’s Lamarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution and one of the lead members of the study. “I’m really being cautious here because I do not want that finding displayed as if we can interpret it at face value.”

The study, part of a larger initiative on bullying in general, provides fascinating insight into the social significance of anger in relationships as children grow to adulthood. Debra Pepler, another lead researcher and psychology professor at York, said female bullies, those tyrants so feared and loathed in middle school, may become victims of abuse themselves as they use their tactics on their high school boyfriends. “Boys stop bullying and don’t go into dating aggression, whereas the girls who bully are highly likely to move into dating aggression.” Pepler said those girls carry on in high school with demeaning remarks, punishing silences or “teasing,” such as pinching or hair-pulling – all clumsy means of gaining control over another person by exploiting their vulnerabilities. The tactics work in the short term, giving the perpetrator some control, but ultimately these relationships are unstable and unhealthy, without ease or trust on either side. The girls’ partners may retaliate in kind, or worse.

The story was also picked up by CanWest News Service, the Kingston Whig Standard, Saskatoon’s StarPhoenix, the Vancouver Province, Victoria’s Times Colonist, the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald.

Meet the man behind Trump Tower

In the heart of Toronto’s financial district, in a greenhouse styled-atrium that is the proposed site of the tallest residential building in Canada, dozens of media jammed the elegant waiting room of the Trump International Hotel&Tower, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 4. Alex Shnaider is quietly absorbing the freakish circus that has descended on this former parking lot at Bay and Adelaide. Although the tower will carry the Trump name, the 36-year-old York grad is actually the main developer – and financial muscle – behind the $500 million project, which is billed as the first five-star hotel and condominium in Canada’s largest city. Far from the financial towers of Bay St., the centre of the universe for the privately held Midland Group of which Shnaider is co-chair, is the intersection of Dufferin Street and Finch Avenue. From here, Shnaider controls a global business of 34 offices across the world with 50,000 employees and revenues, he claims, of US$2 billion annually. Not bad for a young man whose dentist mother and engineer father emigrated from Russia to Israel in 1972, and then to Canada in 1982 when Shnaider was only 13. The Shnaiders lived in North York where young Alex went to high school at William Lyon Mackenzie, and then to nearby York University, where he graduated in 1992 with a BA in economics.

Trying to predict spousal assaults

For George Allen autumn is a bittersweet time of year – a time when the memory of his daughter becomes even more poignant, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 4. Patricia, a tax lawyer, was killed in Ottawa in 1991 when her estranged husband shot her with a crossbow. Family and friends set up a memorial fund in her honour. Its mission to prevent violence against women. Thirteen years later, Allen is hoping a risk-assessment formula developed by a York University professor, one of many projects the Patricia Allen Memorial Fund has supported, will help other women escape his daughter’s fate. Known as DOVE, or Domestic Violence Evaluation, the formula is designed to assess the risk of violence against women who leave their partners, said Desmond Ellis, a senior scholar at York’s LaMarsh Research Centre on Violence & Conflict Resolution. DOVE isn’t the first such formula to be created, but it’s one that’s been proven to work, Ellis maintained. It’s one of the new tools experts hope will be able to prevent abuse and even murder of women.

Working with Noreen Stuckless, a psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, and sociology professor Lori Wright of Algoma College in Sault Ste. Marie, Ellis has developed a list of 15 factors that can be used to predict violence after a separation. The formula, which incorporates a safety plan, ranks a woman’s former partner as being at low, medium or high risk for continued violence.

The study gave Ellis and his colleagues a chilling portrait of life for many women in and out of a violent marriage: 53 per cent of the women surveyed reported being assaulted once or more during the marriage. After they separated, 24 per cent reported being physically assaulted by their estranged spouse. Ellis hopes to test the model on 300 more participants, and that it will then be used more widely. “You just can’t arrest someone on DOVE scores alone. But if they’re high-risk in the future, you can try to make the environment for the women as safe as possible and suggest interventions for him as well.”

Triumph of the outlet malls

With the launch of Swedish designer Karl Lagerfeld’s line a few weeks ago, H&M (which opened its doors in Canada this year) now boasts the first mass-market clothing line designed by a major couturier, reported the National Post Dec. 4. This bold initiative is the ultimate acknowledgement of a retail trend that has steadily gained momentum in the past few years: the blurring of the line between high- and low-end consumers. “People are willing to spend a huge amount on what matters to them, which is very subjective. For all the rest, they are very value-conscious,” said Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business. “It’s made a much more challenging environment.” He noted that the psychology underpinning consumer actions has also become much more complex in the post-9/11 era. “People are feeling unsafe, they feel overwhelmed, they feel a lack of control,” Middleton said. “All that translates into a willingness to splurge. A drive to find something that makes them feel special.” And when designer items cost $25, $50 or $100 at Winners, it’s that much easier to “feel special” on a regular basis.

A high price for lost pounds

Hundreds of women and men worldwide have become permanently injured or died after taking fenfluramine (marketed as Ponderal in Canada) and dexfenfluramine (Redux), two popular and closely related diet drugs used to treat obesity, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 5. Both were pulled off the global market in 1997. The drugs have little proven long-term benefit and potential serious side effects, and critics have been calling for regulators both in Canada and the US to raise the risk and benefit threshold for approving new drugs. “If the drug is going to be used by everyone, including healthy people, then you really want to be sure these products are safe before you put it on the market,” says Joel Lexchin, a health policy professor at York University.

Payday loan operators’ code leaves out the main point

Smarting from bad publicity due to several class-action lawsuits currently in the works, a coalition of payday loan operators – short-term lenders notorious for charging giant fees – this week unveiled a “Code of Best Business Practices,” reported the National Post Dec. 4. Alas, noticeably missing from the code is any pledge to cap interest rates at the legal limit, which, according to Section 347 of the Canadian Criminal Code, is 60 per cent interest per annum. According to a report by Iain Ramsay, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, payday loan outlets attempt to circumvent the law by applying additional “brokerage” and/or “processing” fees. But Ramsay insists such creative billing is still illegal under the Criminal Code. “The criminal interest rate provision defines interest extremely broadly to include what you would call all the costs of the loan,” he said.

Books on thin ice

Ice. It’s the nuisance on our walkways and roadways that we combat with salt and shovel; our avenue for a pleasure skate or game of shinny; the crucial, but ultimately disposable ingredient in the preparation of a proper martini. It can be cloudy or clear, black or blue. It can be dry or slushy. You can build a shelter out of it – a whole hotel, even. You can use it in a stare. It’s also the multifaceted subject of two new books: Pauline Couture’s Ice: Beauty. Danger. History and Gretel Ehrlich’s The Future of Ice: A Journey Into Cold, Christine Sismondo wrote in a book review in The Globe and Mail Dec. 4. Sismondo is naturally curious about the future of ice, having spent the last couple of years researching the history of cocktails, said the Globe. She teaches humanities at York University.

Wrap accounts don’t live up to sales pitch

Beyond portfolio-in-a-box convenience, there’s not a single good reason to invest in a bank wrap, reported The Globe and Mail Dec. 4. The fees are comparatively high, the returns all too often are mediocre or worse and the methodology behind them can be questionable. One TD wrap has a total of 10 funds for a portfolio that can be as small as $2,000 for registered retirement savings accounts, or $5,000 for non-registered accounts. Arguably, that’s overkill. “Theory says that the more diversification, the better, and the more you own, the more diversified you are,” said Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “But at some point, the marginal benefit goes to zero.” Milevsky said you could create a well-diversified portfolio with five well-chosen mutual funds. “I just don’t see the point of 10,” he added.

On air

  • Dawn Bazely, a biology professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, recommended her favourite science books from the past year, on CBC Radio’s “Quirks and Quarks” Dec. 4.
  • Vincent Tao, Canada Research Chair in geomatics at York University, explained new aerial surveillance technology that lets the user zoom in on various locations, on Discovery Television Dec. 3, Kitchener-Waterloo’s CKCO-TV, Toronto’s CFTO-TV and Ottawa’s CJOH-TV Dec. 4. SAME (short for See Anywhere, Map Everywhere) technology has raised issues with lawyers specializing in privacy issues, they reported.