February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Dating violence goes by a number of different terms: intimate partner violence (IPV) or dating violence. It’s described as ‘physical, sexual, or psychological harm’ by a current or former partner. For teens (and adults), it may be hard to know when actions in a relationship have crossed the line into IPV. If a partner is controlling but not violent is that ok? If a partner prefers you don’t hang out with friends unless they are around is that normal? Read full post »
An article was recently published in the journal Gender & Society that is enlightening, sad, and for me, brought back memories. The researchers interviewed a hundred adolescent girls referred for sexual abuse about their lives, and discussed themes regarding not only specific incidences of sexual abuse, but day-to-day life as a teen girl. The teen girls interviewed seemed to view sexual harassment, and even sexual violence, as part of everyday life. A common viewpoint was that boys have uncontrollable sexual urges, and it was the responsibility of girls- for better or for worse- to try and dodge them.
As I read the article, I began recalling my own life as an adolescent girl, and how normal a lot of sexual violence seemed. I’ve touched on this topic before, and yet it was startling how familiar some of these themes were to me. I wanted to discuss some of the ideas presented in the study, as well as the overwhelming questions that emerge: Why aren’t teens experiencing sexual harassment or violence seeking help from adults? Why do the teens perpetrating sexual harassment and violence think that their actions are okay?
One of the questions I ask every teen I meet is whether or not they’re in any kind of intimate relationship. Much of the time the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘I have been.’ My follow up question is usually about how their partner treats them and whether or not they feel safe. A recent study has looked at the association between athletics and intimate partner violence. The results surprised me.
In the study, researchers asked ~1,600 boys who were participating in a school based program on coaching boys into men about dating and their sports participation. They first asked about gender equitable attitudes in their sport (generally whether or not boys and girls were equal). They then asked if the teen had been in a heterosexual (with only a female partner) relationship for more than a week and if they had every perpetrated any of 10 different abusive acts (including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse). What they found was that boys who played both football and basketball held less equitable attitudes about gender and sports. Those boys who played both football and basketball or just football alone were more likely to have been abusive in a relationship.
Does this mean that boys who play basketball and football are going to abuse their girlfriends? No, but it does make me think that it might be hard to ‘turn off’ the aggressive behavior that is encouraged on the court or playing field when not in the game. The promising part of this study was that the boys who received violence prevention messages from coaches were less likely to be abusive.
The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2011 that 9.4% of high school students had been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a partner. They also found that 8% had been forced to have sex. Dating violence amongst adolescents is preventable, but we as adult role models, definitely have more work to do to recognize when dating violence is occurring and prevent the behaviors.
Warning signs that a teen may be in an abusive relationship:
- social isolation
- their partner checks their email/cell phone/social network page without permission
- put downs/name calling either face to face on via social media
- extreme jealousy from a partner
- a partner is possessive/controlling
- physical injury
Here are some great websites for information on dating violence prevention:
The breakup of a romantic relationship is almost always hard. Even as adults, we might mourn, weep, question our worth, and wonder if we’ll ever be happy again. The Holmes and Rahe stress scale (for adults), which seeks to score big life events in relation to how they affect your overall stress level, rates divorce as second only to the death of a spouse. While teen breakups are not nearly as long or complicated as a divorce, they still can bring sorrow, guilt, emptiness, low self-esteem, and anger.
In fact, some people who have been through divorces might get angry at me even comparing a teen breakup to a divorce. As adults who have watched friends and family divorce, or divorced ourselves, we know the two are very different. But a teen has never been married or partnered, has never been divorced, and may well have never been in a relationship lasting longer than three months. To you, it’s a blip on the radar. To them, it’s the end of the world.
How do you help your teen get over a breakup? Read full post »
As summer is getting into full swing, those teens who graduated from high school may be preparing to go off to college. For many of the teens I work with, moving means leaving behind friends, family, and a boyfriend or girlfriend. When I ask teens what they think will happen to the relationship, many tell me they aren’t sure. Often they are in their first serious relationship, one where their family and friends all know the significant other and much of the teen’s free time is spent with their partner. I ask them about what will happen to their relationship in order to get them to think a bit about the future, while enjoying the summer. Read full post »
At some point, most teens end up dating someone who is a little older or younger than them. But when that age gap widens, teens can be putting themselves or their partner in danger of legal (and emotional) consequences if the relationship involves sexual contact. This week we’re going to take a look at the legal implications of the age of consent and statutory rape.
In the United States, the most common age of consent is 16, although in some states, it is 17 or 18. This means that someone under the age of 16 cannot legally give consent to sexual contact with an adult, while once a teen turns 16 they can consent to sex with anyone they choose (with a few exceptions, such as teachers, foster parents, and supervisors.) Read full post »
I was going to only have one post on dating, but there’s so much to cover. Welcome to Part 2 of Part 4! This post is kind of a catch-all for some other common questions parents have when their LGB teen starts dating. The main focus is on ways to ensure that your teen has healthy dating experiences (or at least give it your best shot.)
Sometimes parents feel more hesitant to discuss romantic issues with LGB teens. They may feel like they have less relevant experience, are less familiar with LGB issues, or their teen will care less about what they have to say. But so much about romantic relationships- including a lot of your wisdom and experience- is universal. Your teen does care what you have to say (whether they seem to or not), and they need your love, support, and guidance.
Here are some common questions that parents of LGB teens have, and answers- or at least ideas- to think about.
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens are just like heterosexual teens in that they will get crushes, probably date, and hopefully learn a little about themselves in the process. They will discover more about how to function in romantic relationships and what they want in a partner. The feelings, desires, and heartbreak they may encounter are exactly the same that a heterosexual teen would encounter.
However, there will be some differences in their romantic lives, and often parents are not sure how to negotiate these differences.
A big question that often comes up for parents is friendships versus relationships. While your average 15-year-old boy is unlikely to ask if a girl can sleep over (although some do), a gay teen may have many friends of the same sex whom he sees without supervision, talks to behind closed doors, or asks to spend the night in his bedroom. Does that have to change if you now know your teen is attracted to the same sex?
A recent news story caught my eye. It described the findings of a research study that linked teen girls, boyfriends, and sex. The study found that teen girls who relied on their boyfriends as the main source of their spending money were 10% less likely to use a condom when sexually active with their boyfriend than teens who had another source of income (like parents, grandparents, or job). Read full post »
Many parents fearfully await their teen showing interest in dating, worrying about everything from broken hearts to sexually transmitted diseases. A recent study in the American Sociological Review states that teens who date are more likely to drink alcohol (due to added opportunities for peer pressure and bad examples from their partner’s friends.) But don’t revoke their dating privileges just yet.
Forming romantic attachments is an important part of growing up. Dating during adolescence helps teen discover what qualities they want in a romantic partner, learn appropriate behavior in a dating or committed relationship, and learn important lessons about trust and consequences.