Adolescence is a critical period of development where young people are exposed to new experiences, such as dating. Unfortunately, some teens find themselves involved in dating relationships that involve physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse. Teens are often unable to recognize the signs of teen dating violence, or may be reluctant to tell their parents or friends. Violent relationships in adolescence often have significant long-term, negative effects on an individual’s health.

According to the CDC victims of dating violence are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Data shows that 22 percent of female and 15 percent of male adult victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.

It’s important that our young people learn what a healthy relationship looks like as early in life as possible . A healthy relationship consists of mutual respect, trust, honesty, support of each person’s individuality and open communication. Parents can support their children by using a variety of opportunities such as movies, television shows, music, and personal experiences to highlight examples of healthy and unhealthy relationships. Parents should maintain open dialogue with their children by listening and being non-judgmental so their child will be willing to come to them in the event they have questions about a potentially unhealthy relationship.

Our Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program funds community based organizations and county health departments who offer evidenced-based programs that teach middle and high school youth about healthy relationships. Our Sexual Violence Prevention Education Program funds organizations that integrate information about healthy relationships into their education programs for school-age youth and college-age adults.

The Arizona Department of Education administers a Character Education Matching Grant that provides elementary schools with funds to support implementation of approved character education curricula. The programs promote respect, caring, responsibility, and other positive character traits. Learn more about what you can do to help teach your children about healthy relationships by visiting the CDC’s Teen Dating Violence website.