How can I recognize if my teen is in an unhealthy dating relationship?
Looking out for signs of unhealthy teen relationships can help keep them safe.
It’s harder to tell than you’d think.
One would think it would be so easy to recognize the signs of such violence, but that isn’t always the case.
In a study by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “82% of parents reported feeling confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse. When asked to correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse, a majority of parents (58%) could not.
Open communication is key
Keep in mind that some teens are also less likely to open up and share about their experiences. The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Report reports that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & queer (LGBTQ) youth are less likely than heterosexual youth to tell someone or seek help if they are being abused. There are also fewer resources available for these teens. That’s also why we have sexual violence resources specific for LGBTQIA+ on our resources page.
Warning signs of teen dating violence and abuse
House of Ruth reminds us that noticing just one of these warning signs does not necessarily mean someone is experiencing abuse. Noticing several signs together may be a cause for concern.
Excessive jealousy or insecurity
Attempts to isolate from friends and family
Being too serious about the relationship too quickly
Being worried or afraid of how the other partner will react to things
Checking cell phone, emails or social media without permission
Constant mood swings
Constantly pressuring someone to have sex or do things that make them uncomfortable
Destroying property or punching walls
What can I tell my teen if I think they are being abused?
The House of Ruth notes that “It’s important to trust yourself. If you think there is a problem in your relationship, you are probably right. Controlling and violent behaviors will likely get worse over time, not better.”
It’s important to remember to listen and be supportive of teens when they decide to share information about their relationships.
In our prevention work – The Levitas Initiative with the University of Maryland – facilitators encourage middle school students to talk with trusted adults. At this time, it’s also helpful to model healthy relationships and talk to teens about mental health.
Resources for teens experiencing dating and intimate partner violence
Hotlines teens can call to speak with with trained listeners and advocates:
House of Ruth Maryland 24-Hour Hotline: 410-889-7884
National Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
LGBT National Help Center National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564 or National Youth Talkline 1-800-246-7743
Live chats with trained responders :
Sources for this page
- Rosado, Lourdes, The Pathways to Youth Violence; How Child Maltreatment and Other Risk Factors Lead Children to Chronically Aggressive Behavior. 2000. American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences: Leveraging the Best Available Evidence. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention