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Dating and Romantic Relationships


While dating can be a way for youth to learn positive relationship skills like mutual respect, trust, honesty, and compromise, it also can present challenges. Youth in relationships with the following features may be at risk:

  • Dating an older partner. Some older partners may want to have sex before an adolescent is developmentally or emotionally ready. When teenage girls do have sex with an older partner, they may not use contraception and are at a heightened risk of pregnancy. These risks are more common when young teens—particularly young girls—have a sexual relationship with an adult. Among young people ages 18-24, nine percent of girls and five percent of boys reported that they first had sex when they were age 15 or younger and their partner was at least three years older. This age difference also can carry legal consequences because there are laws that prohibit sex between minors and adults. The specific laws and definitions differ by state.
  • Having unrealistic expectations. Sometimes adolescents have idealistic views about relationships. For example, they may expect that relationships always progress in certain stages. First, they hang out with a group of friends; then they meet each other's parents; then they tell people they are a couple; and so forth. Youth may feel disappointed when the reality of their relationships does not match those expectations. One study found the more relationships progressed differently than expected, the more often girls experienced poor mental health, such as severe depression and even suicide attempts.
  • Dating at an early age. Younger adolescents are still developing their sense of self and learning about their likes, dislikes, and values. Younger adolescents also are more susceptible than older adolescents to peer pressure. Peers play an important role in influencing adolescent decisions about risky behaviors like having sex.
  • Having sex at an early age. When younger adolescents have sex, they often engage in risky sexual behaviors. They also might experience other negative outcomes like depression, substance use, poor romantic relationship quality, and low school participation.
  • Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

    Adolescents and caring adults can learn to spot warning signs that a friendship or romantic relationship is unhealthy. Violence is not the only important sign. Unhealthy relationship behaviors can include:

  • One partner is controlling, makes all the decisions, and tells their partner what they can or cannot do.
  • One partner is hostile, picks fights, or is dishonest.
  • One partner is disrespectful, makes fun of their partner, or crosses boundaries.
  • One partner is completely dependent on the other or loses a sense of their individual identity.
  • One partner intimidates or controls a partner using fear tactics.
  • One partner engages in physical or sexual violence.
  • Dating Violence

    Some youth find themselves in violent dating relationships. Dating violence can be emotional, physical, or sexual. Dating violence also includes stalking.

    Emotional violence is when one partner threatens the other or harms his or her sense of self-worth or self-esteem. Emotional violence includes things like calling names, behaving in a controlling or jealous way, monitoring the other person constantly, shaming, or bullying. Emotional violence also happens when someone keeps the other away from friends and family.

    Physical violence is when someone pinches, hits, shoves, slaps, punches, or kicks their partner.

    Sexual violence is when someone forces a partner to have sex or engage in sexual activities when he or she does not or cannot consent. Force can be physical or nonphysical. An example of nonphysical violence is when someone threatens to spread rumors if a partner refuses to have sex.

    Stalking is any form of repeated and unwanted contact that makes a person feel unsafe.Unfortunately, adolescents experience these forms of violence too often. Among adolescents who dated in the past year:

    Eight percent reported being hit or physically hurt by a partner.

    Almost one in three reported being emotionally abused by a partner.

    Seven percent reported being forced by a partner to have sex or engage in sexual activities—like kissing or unwanted touching.

    When dating violence occurs, it is common for both adolescent partners to be violent. In fact, 84 percent of youth ages 12-18 who survived dating violence also behaved violently. Adolescent boys and girls also experience similar rates of violence. About 69 percent of girls and 69 percent of boys who dated in the past year experienced some type of violence.


    Technology gives youth new chances to be stalked by a current or former dating partner. Cyberstalking includes:

    Unwanted, frightening, or offensive emails, text messages, or instant messages (IMs)

    Harassment or threats on social media

    Tracking computer and internet use

    Using technology such as GPS to track a person


    Parents play an important role in supporting their Teenages through relationships – from role modelling positive behaviours to offering support and a listening ear. When young people start dating, there’s a whole lot of emotion and expectation attached. Being prepared on how to deal with it will help your child with their own romantic relationships. It will also ensure that you maintain your bond and stay connected with your child while they’re going this very intense and exciting period.

    This can help if you:
  • suspect your Teenage is thinking about a relationship want to make sure your Teenage engages in respectful relationships want your Teenage to be safe and respected in relationships.
  • want to make sure your Teenage engages in respectful relationships
  • want your Teenage to be safe and respected in relationships.
  • Embracing and understanding teen romance

    Beginning romantic relationships is a major part of growing up. It can be uncomfortable for some parents to come to terms with their child dating. It’s normal to feel scared, worried or sometimes sad about it. You may even feel the urge to discourage your child from pursuing relationships in their teens, but the truth is it won’t always work. Teenage relationships come naturally with adolescence, just like acne, facial hair or mood swings- it’s completely normal, so it’s best to embrace it!

    How will my Teenage experience romantic relationships?

    It will be a bit of a rollercoaster. There are a lot of emotions involved when teens start dating. Not only is adolescence overwhelming enough with school stress, navigating friendships and dealing with hormones- relationships add a whole other layer to the cake. When teens begin romantic relationships it’s exciting, it’s consuming, it’s fun and it’s sometimes heartbreaking. So be prepared to deal with a whole spectrum of emotions by letting your child know that they can come to you in the good times, as well as when things are getting tough.

    They may be distracted. Chances are when your teen is in a relationship, it might feel like that’s all they can concentrate on or care about. This is particularly true if it’s a new relationship. But let’s face it, this doesn’t change that much when people get older. The beginning of a relationship is often the most exciting and the most time consuming. If you’re concerned with the amount of time your child is spending with their boyfriend or girlfriend, make sure you communicate this to them while also being supportive and open to a discussion.

    How can I help my Teenage engage in a healthy romantic relationship?

    The best way to show support is to be open to talking about their relationship. Let your child know that they can come to you for support, and be sure not to be dismissive of their experiences. Depending on their age, you may need to have a conversation around sex - try not to be judgemental so they feel like they can come to you with anything. Let’s face it - the most influential people in a Teenage’s life are often the adults around them. The single most important thing you can do as a parent is to be a positive role model, by engaging in respectful relationships with the friends and family that you yourself care about. This is critical to your child being able to understand what a respectful and healthy romantic relationship looks like, and how to create one. In addition, make sure you talk to your child about respectful relationships as this is an important step in them recognising respectful relationships, and importantly, when they might not be in one.

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