Educating youth about healthy relationships

Culturally, we provide adolescents training and education around academia, life skills and future planning. Unfortunately, little education and guidance is provided to assist adolescents in navigating the complexities of relationships and dating. Furthermore, parents and guardians often times don’t feel equipped to provide support – especially in regards to the influence and accessibility of technology today.

Even when parents or guardians are prepared, adolescents are frequently reluctant to reach out to a trusting adult for support.  Youth are more apt to rely on their friends who can be as naive, if they confide in anyone at all. Otherwise if they do not have an adult they trust they may look at popular culture as a model to what a relationship should look like and this too can be problematic.

Research indicates:

  • 1 in 3 adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. *
  • Sexual assault most frequently occurs between individuals who know one another **
  • 1 in 3 teens who were involved in an abusive relationship confided in someone about the violence. ***
  • More than half of parents, 58% can’t identify all the warning signs of abuse.****

Working with adolescents over the last 16 years, one thing usually remains the same: they are frequently surprised when I educate them on the differences between healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships. Abusive dynamics in their relationships are many times normalized and justified. Adolescents are in need of education and guidance around relationships and dating, similar to the need to learn to drive and balance a checkbook.


* Davis, Antoinette, MPH. 2008. Interpersonal and Physical Dating Violence among Teens. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus. Available at

** Basile, K.C., and L.E. Saltzman. Sexual Violence Surveillance: Uniform Definitions and Recommended Data Elements, version 1.0. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2002

*** Hattersley Gray, Robin. “Dating Abuse Statistics.” School Safety. Accessed January 31, 2016.

**** Fifth & Pacific Companies, Inc. (Liz Claiborne, Inc.), Conducted by Teen Research Unlimited, (May 2009). “Troubled Economy Linked to High Levels of Teen Dating Violence & Abuse Survey 2009,” Available at: