Facts for Living: Is your teen in a healthy relationship?

By Rebecca McFarland
Frontier Extension Agent

Last month I shared with you the results of research from the Growing Up with Media study, a national online survey funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, titled One in Three U.S. Youths Report Being Victims of Dating Violence, states that about one in three American youth age 14-20 say they’ve been victims of dating violence and almost one in three acknowledge they’ve committed violence toward a date.

As a parent of teens, community member and someone who has been working with youth and families for the past 19 years, I find that statistic very alarming and feel it is vital that we educate our youth about what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like.

Many teens are unclear about what respect and normal boundaries in relationships look like. People can abuse others or be abused because they do not understand that the behaviors are damaging and wrong. An important skill to develop is the ability to recognize when abusive behaviors are present and perhaps even more important for teens, is the ability to recognize the early warning signs of abuse. The deeper a relationship gets into abusive patterns, the more difficult and dangerous it can be to get out. Your teen is at risk if their partner does any of these:

  • Won’t let her have friends, constantly checks up on her.
  • Is extremely jealous. Extreme jealously is not a sign of love but of insecurity and an attempt to control someone.
  • Gives her orders and wants to make all the decisions.
  • Mean teasing and puts her down in front of others.
  • Continually belittles him or calls him stupid or no good – privately or in public.
  • Loses his or her temper quickly and frequently.
  • Tries to pressure, intimidate or force her to have sex.
  • Limits who he can talk to. Chooses her clothes. Discourages him from attending school or work.
  • Generally tries to separate her from the life she led before the relationship.
  • Demands for exclusive attention to him.
  • Abuses drugs or alcohol and pressures him to do the same.
  • Scares her, makes her worried about his reactions to things she says or does.
  • Makes veiled or direct threats.
  • Mistreats her and then says she provoked the mistreatment.
  • Pushes, shoves, slaps or hits him.
  • Is abusive to her and then comes back on hands and knees promising to change.

Emotional and verbal abuse is not a normal part of a relationship. To be repeatedly put down, ignored, made to feel stupid or threatened is emotional abuse. To be called names and talked to disrespectfully is verbal abuse. To push, slap or hit is physical abuse. These actions are not a part of a healthy relationship. It is important to “draw the line of respect” at the first sign of disrespect because these signs can be a warning that physical abuse may come next.

See One in Three U.S. Youths Report Being Victims of Dating Violence here.


McFarland_RebeccaRebecca McFarland is the Frontier Extension District family and consumer sciences agent. For more information, she can be contacted at the Extension district’s Ottawa office, 1418 S. Main, Suite 2, Ottawa, KS 66067, or call 785-229-3520, or email [email protected].


One Response to Facts for Living: Is your teen in a healthy relationship?

  1. OsageWayne says:

    We received this note by email:

    Hello,
    My name is Jacque, I am an intern for the non-profit organization Kaity's Way. We go out into the community and educate about teen dating violence and promoting healthy relationships. I am writing to tell you I appreciate the work you mentioned being done in the article to help combat the tragedies of domestic violence. Keep up the education and awareness.
    Best regards,
    Jacque

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