Main Content

Youth and Healthy Relationships Collection by Topic

Table of Contents:

Definitions and Acronyms
Research on Youth Relationships

Youth Attitudes and Beliefs about Marriage, Relationships, Cohabitation and Sex
Delivering Relationship Education to Youth
Use of Media by Teens and its Impact on Relationships and Sexual Behavior
Dating Violence
Additional Resources / Curricula for Youth


The majority of young people of both sexes say that "having a good marriage and family life is ‘extremely important' to them." Yet, far too many youth have low expectations of ever experiencing a healthy romantic relationship or marriage.1 The good news is that the skills and knowledge needed to create healthy relationship can be learned. And, once learned, young people become more confident that they can build healthy romantic relationships and marriage.

The importance of romantic relationship education to improving youth outcomes is just now being recognized by youth development experts. Schools and youth programs have begun incorporating education that addresses romantic relationships in terms of various self-efficacy, interpersonal communications and problem solving skills, safety, and creating an understanding of the basis for a healthy marriage. Relationship education has been shown to increase positive assets in youth while decreasing risky behaviors.2 Not only are these skills useful for intimate partner relationships, but the same skills can also improve youth contexts. These may include relationships with peers, teachers, supervisors, co-workers, and parents.

Evidence-based relationship education is most often delivered as a curriculum through an experiential learning model. Programs may be presented as stand-alone courses or integrated into pre-existing youth services. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for teaching teens how to navigate their love lives. The content and delivery method must be tailored to the specific youth population that is being served, especially when serving vulnerable or disadvantaged youth. Cultural nuances must be addressed as well.

The objective of this Collection is to provide an annotated listing of published resources that describe specific issues for youth as they relate to intimate relationships. Collectively, these resources address why it is important to offer relationship services specifically for young people as a means to improve immediate and long-term outcomes for youth. This is not meant to be a comprehensive collection, but rather a selection of publications that will be of general interest. Whenever possible, we have selected items and resources available online. Additional publications and resources will be posted periodically as they come to our attention.

Any views expressed in the papers and resources presented in this Collection do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the NHMRC.

The NHMRC would like to thank Kay Reed, Executive Director of The Dibble Institute, Sarah Byington of the Resource Center, and Serena Retna of The Lewin Group for their contributions to the development of this Collection. This is a product of the NHMRC, led by co-directors Mary Myrick, APR, and Jeanette Hercik, PhD, and project manager Rich Batten, ThM, MEd, CFLE.


1 State of our Unions, 2009, page 112 and Telling It Like It Is: Teen Perspectives on Romantic Relationships, October 2009

2 Kerpelman, J.L. (2007). Youth Focused Relationships and Marriage Education. Auburn University. The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues.



Emerging Adulthood: Phase of life span between adolescence and adulthood. Individuals no longer have the dependency of childhood and adolescence but have also not obtained the full-fledged responsibilities of adulthood.

MEF: Media Education Foundation

Cohabitation: Cohabitation is an arrangement whereby two people decide to live together on a long term or permanent basis in an emotionally and/or sexually intimate relationship. The term is most frequently applied to couples who are not married.

Sexting: A form of texting in which an individual sends sexually explicit messages or photographs from one mobile phone to another.

Social Networking Sites: A website consisting of user profiles, social links, and provides outlets for users to connect and interact via the internet, including email and instant messaging. These sites are individual-centered and allow users to share ideas, interests, and activities within a specific network.

Youth Relationship Education: Youth relationship education equips young people with the skills and knowledge they need to lead healthy romantic lives now and in the future. Curricula may include:


Self knowledge and self-efficacy

How relationships grow, develop, and change over time
How sex impacts a relationship Communication and conflict resolution skills
Handling crisis Getting to know someone
Mate selection Evaluating your relationship
Breaking up Relationship safety
Commitment The kinds of love
Benefits of marriage  

Research on Youth Relationships

Documents in this section discuss youth romantic relationship development as it impacts other key parts of young people's lives - including sexual activity and other risk behaviors. Several articles focus on the health of parental relationships as a predictor of their children's eventual romantic lives. Finally, the report from the Rand Corporation summarizes much current literature about current healthy teen relationships and links to positive adult outcomes.

Cooksey, E. C., Mott, F. L. & Neubauer, S. A. (2002). Friendships and Early Relationships: Links to Sexual Initiation Among American Adolescents Born to Young Mothers. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 34(3).
Preadolescent friendships and early teenage dating relationships have implications for adolescent sexual initiation that may differ by race and gender.

Bouchet, S. (2009). More Than Jobs - Providing Disadvantaged Teens and Young Adults with Healthy Relationship Skills as a Strategy to Reduce Poverty and Improve Child Well-Being. Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Most youth value marriage and plan to marry, however marriage rates have been declining, especially among the poor and minorities; work rates for men are falling and multiple partner fertility is increasing; and non-marital birth rates and unplanned births have been increasing, especially among the 16-24 age group and among minorities.  PowerPoint presentation also available.

Haynie, D. L., Giordano, P. C., Manning, W. D., Longmore, M. A. (2005). Adolescent Romantic Relationships and Delinquency Involvement. Criminology. 43(1): 177-210.
The study links friends' and romantic partners' delinquency to respondents' own delinquency, enabling an examination of romantic partner influence on adolescent delinquency, beyond that influence associated with friends' behaviors.

Karney, B. R, Beckett, M. K., Collins, R. L. & Shaw, R. (2007). Adolescent Romantic Relationships as Precursors of Healthy Adult Marriage - Executive Summary. Rand Corporation and Department of Health and Human Services.
The goal of this report is to synthesize and evaluate the existing basic and applied literature on adolescent romantic relationships, with particular emphasis on experiences in these relationships as precursors of adult marriages. The analyses described in this report should provide a foun¬dation for policies to promote healthy marriages through programs aimed at adolescents.

McCarthy, B. & Casey, T. (2008). Love, Sex, and Crime: Adolescent Romantic Relationships and Offending. American Sociological Review, 73: 944-969.
This article analyzes patterns of romance, sexual behavior, and adolescent crime. Findings support expectations regarding differential effects of romance and sex. It concludes by discussing the implications of these results for understanding adolescent delinquency, social attachments, and development.

National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2007). Teen Pregnancy, Out-of-Wedlock Births, Healthy Relationships, and Marriage. United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.
While the majority of non-marital births are to adult women, the teen years are frequently a time when unmarried families are first formed-a strong rationale for focusing on teens in any broad effort to reduce out-of-wedlock childbearing and strengthen marriage.

National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Why It Matters: Teen Pregnancy, Out-of-Wedlock Births, Healthy Relationships and Marriage. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families.
Reducing teen pregnancy will decrease out-of-wedlock childbearing and increase the percentage of children born to married couples. While the majority of non-marital births are to adult women, the teen years are frequently a time when unmarried families are first formed-a strong rationale for focusing on teens in any broad effort to reduce out-of-wedlock childbearing and strengthen marriage

Shellenbarger, S. (2009). Why Puppy Love Matters for Parents. The Wall Street Journal.
Teen romance is emerging as a powerful factor in kids' development-one in which parents have a major role to play, new studies show. The research suggests that young people not only value parental input, but tend to have healthier relationships when they receive parental advice.

Sorensen, Sarah. (2007) Adolescent Romantic Relationships. ACT for Youth Center of Excellence.
This article discusses the importance of romantic relationships to youth and youth development, including the benefits of healthy relationships, the risks romantic relationships may pose to adolescents, and the need for adults to support young people in developing healthy relationships.

Steinberg, S. J., Davila, J. & Fincham, F. (2006). Adolescent Marital Expectations and Romantic Experiences: Associations with Perceptions About Parental Conflict and Adolescent Attachment Security. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Volume 35, Number 3.
This study tested associations between adolescent perceptions of interparental conflict, adolescent attachment security with parents, and adolescent marital expectations and romantic experiences. Results supported the mediation model in which adolescents' negative perceptions of parental conflict was associated with insecure attachment with parents, which was in turn associated with negative marital expectations and romantic experiences.

Whitehead, B. D. & Pearson, M. (2006). Making a Love Connection: Teen Relationships, Pregnancy, and Marriage. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
This report discusses how decreasing teen pregnancy can be a means to increase the proportion of children who grow up in healthy, married families. It describes what they call the "success sequence"-the optimal timing of sex, marriage, and parenthood - and outlines ways to help teens develop positive expectations for their current and future relationships.

Effectiveness and Benefits of Youth Relationship Education

While still a young field, the research into the efficacy of healthy relationship skill development is strong and growing. These documents provide a window into the evidence base of the field. Outcomes generally show an increase in positive behaviors and a decrease in risk behaviors that have an immediate impact on young people.

Adler-Baeder, F., Kerpelam, J.L., Schramm, D.G., Higginbotham, B., and Paulk, A. (2007). The Impact of Relationship Education on Adolescents of Diverse Backgrounds. Family Relations, 56(3).
This study examined the effectiveness of an adapted version of the curriculum entitled, "Love U2: Increasing Your Relationship Smarts" with an economically, geographically, and racially diverse sample of school students. Findings suggest that participants showed increases in five dimensions of their relationship knowledge, including their ability to identify unhealthy relationship patterns.

Galston, W.A. (2003). The Changing Twenties. The Brookings Institution. National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
This publication takes an empirical look at four dimensions of the changing 20s.
First, the revolutionary shifts in the balance between young men and young women in education, employment, and earnings. The second dimension includes the rapid changes in patterns of marriage and cohabitation. The third dimension looks at changes in relations between 20-somethings and their parents regarding living arrangements and healthcare. And, finally, a shift in the definition of adulthood itself is discussed.

Gardner, S. P. & Boellaard, R. (2007). Does Youth Relationship Education Continue to Work After a High School Class? A Longitudinal Study. Family Relations 56(5).
This study evaluated the effectiveness of the "Connections: Relationships and Marriage" curriculum. Findings suggest that although most of the immediate impacts of the curriculum fade within 4 years after the curriculum, students who received "Connections" showed an increase in self-esteem, a decrease in dating and relationship violence, and an increase in family cohesion over 4 years.

Kerpelman, J. L. (2007). Youth Focused Relationships and Marriage Education. Auburn University. The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues.
Providing effective relationships education can support positive youth development and help reduce impulsive and health-compromising behaviors.

Pearson, M. Ignoring Teens' Romantic Lives. Keynote Speech by Marline Pearson at Smart Marriages Conference June 2003. National Marriage Project.
This keynote speech offers a critique of current sex education approaches and provides concrete suggestions for new directions (including relationship education) to improve outcomes for young people.

Pearson, M. (2000). Can Kids Get Smart About Marriage? The National Marriage Project. Next Generation Series.
A veteran teacher reviews some leading marriage and relationship education programs and provides a descriptive summary and critical appraisal of eight programs offered in middle and high school settings.

Youth Attitudes and Beliefs about Marriage, Relationships, and Sex

The great majority of young people, regardless of social address, aspire to good marriage and family life. This set of documents articulates their hopes and dreams as well as outlines the hurdles they perceive as hindering their attainment. This collection allows young people to tell us what they need to succeed in and how they feel about their romantic lives.

Scott, M.E., Steward-Streng, N.R., Manlove, J.,Schelar, E., and Cui, C. (2011). Characteristics of Young Adult Sexual Relationships: Diverse, Sometimes Violent, Often Loving.  Child Trends Research Brief.
Limited information exists on the characteristics of young adult relationships and partners. This research brief seeks to fill this knowledge gap by focusing on these characteristics. To develop this brief, Child Trends analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Results indicate that young adult relationships are fairly diverse; that these relationships have both positive and negative dimensions; and that partner and relationship characteristics and patterns of contraceptive use vary considerably by relationship type, gender, and race/ethnicity.

Guzman, L., Ikramullah, E., Manlove, J., Peterson, K. & Scarupa, H. J. (2009). Telling It Like It Is: Teen Perspectives on Romantic Relationships. Child Trends Research Brief.
According to a Child Trends focus groups of teens: In general, the teens showed that they knew what a healthy teen relationship should look like. Yet, at the same time, many of the teens expressed pessimism about their chances of experiencing that type of relationship themselves.

Kaye, K., Suellentrop, K. and Sloup, C. (2009). The Fog Zone: How Misperceptions, Magical Thinking, and Ambivalence Put Young Adults at Risk for Unplanned Pregnancy. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
The national survey results presented here are the first to focus in depth on the attitudes and behaviors of unmarried young adults regarding pregnancy planning, contraception, and related issues. The survey revealed a range of factors that put unmarried young adults at risk of unplanned pregnancy.

Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Teens Have Positive But Changing Views of Marriage. (2008). Brief by Mathematica ® Researchers Notes Increasing Acceptance of Cohabitation Among Teens and an Increased Desire to Postpone Marriage.
To examine some of the potential precursors to these changes in adult marriage patterns, Mathematica examined teens' attitudes, expectations, and experiences associated with romantic relationships and marriage and explored their typical relationship pathways as they transition to adulthood.

The National Campaign. (2005). Science Says #16: Teens' Attitudes Toward Marriage, Cohabitation, and Divorce, 2002. National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
This Science Says issue brief uses the most recent round of the NSFG, collected in 2002, to examine teens' attitudes about marriage, divorce, and cohabitation.

The National Campaign. That's What He Said: What Guys Think About Sex, Love, Contraception, and Relationships. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Seventeen Magazine.
The survey results presented shed light on what young men think-and how they behave-when it comes to love, sex, contraception, relationships, unplanned pregnancy, and related issues.

The National Campaign. (2007). What 20-Soemthings are saying about Pregnancy, Sex, and Childbearing. Findings from Focus Groups.
Summary of focus groups about what women and men in their twenties think about unplanned pregnancy and related issues. Here are some toplines from 16 separate focus groups.

The National Campaign. Del Corazon de los Jovenes: What Latino Teens are Saying About Love and Relationships. National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Rarely are teens themselves asked to share their thoughts and beliefs about issues that affect them. Del corazón de los jóvenes-which in English roughly translates to "youth speak from the heart"-gives both teens and parents a snapshot of what Latino teens themselves say about relationships. This document is based on findings from a nationally-representative survey of Latino teens and adults, focus groups with Latino teens, and research previously published by The National Campaign.

The National Campaign. (2008). Relationships in the Latino Community. National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
This summary hopes to shed some light on how Latino teens view relationships and the characteristics of these relationships for practitioners.

National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. (2007). Kiss and Tell: What Teens Say about Love, Trust, and Other Relationship Stuff. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.
This brochure is a snapshot of what teens are thinking about in regards to love and relationships. This is a compilation of findings taken from a national survey of young people, including key themes and quotes that emerged from a survey conducted on The National Campaign website, and from focus group research conducted in 2007 throughout the United States.

National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Our Story, Our Words: Youth Speak Out on Sex, Love and Teen Pregnancy.
Teens get lots of advice from adults, but they usually aren't asked to offer their own. The National Campaign asked teens growing up in foster care what they wanted to know about teen pregnancy prevention and what advice they would give to their peers. This magazine-style brochure tells what teens have to say in their own words.

The National Marriage Project. (2007). The State of Our Unions 2007: The Social Health of Marriage in America. Technical Report. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
A look at recent social trends shows that, while the United States is still the most marrying of Western nations, it is gradually moving toward the weaker marriage systems of other modern societies. This paper highlights trends in marriage, divorce, and cohabitation and includes a closer look at family behavior.

Picard, P. What Twenty-Somethings Think About Marriage. National Healthy Marriage Resource Center.
This research, conducted by TRU (a research organization specializing in the twenty-somethings population), provides further evidence that most young people aspire to marry, regardless of current relationship or level of commitment, and that expectations for marriage success are high.

Popenoe, D. & Whitehead, B. D. Should We Live Together? What Young Adults Need to Know about Cohabitation Before Marriage. National Marriage Project. Next Generation Series.
A review of the available social science evidence suggests that living together is not a good way to prepare for marriage or to avoid divorce. It shows that the rise in cohabitation is not a positive family trend. Cohabiting unions tend to weaken the institution of marriage and pose clear and present dangers for women and children.

Scott, M. E., Schelar, E., Manlove, J. & Cui, C. (2008). Young Adults Attitudes About Relationship and Marriage: Times May Have Changed, But Expectations Remain High. ChildTrends Research Brief.
This Research Brief provides a portrait of the attitudes and opinions of young adults about relationships and marriage. Results of the analyses indicate that most young adults have high expectations for marrying someday, though fewer wish to be married currently. Moreover, many young adults are currently in a cohabiting or marital relationship and the vast majority agrees that cohabitation is acceptable.

Silliman, B. & Schumm, W. R. (2004). Adolescents' Perceptions of Marriage and Premarital Couples Education. Family Relations 53(5).
Adolescents in rural and small city high schools in the western United States reported their perceptions of marriage and marriage education. They considered preparation for marriage important, but expressed lower familiarity with and lower intentions to attend programs than college students assessed previously.

Whitehead, B. D. & Popenoe, D. (2000). Changes in Teen Attitudes Toward Marriage, Cohabitation and Children: 1975-1995. The Next Generation Series. National Marriage Project.
Teens and young adults today are pessimistic about the possibility of actually having a stable, two-parent household, and increasingly they do not think their marriages will last a lifetime. Further, many teens have become highly tolerant of out-of-wedlock childbearing, single-parent childrearing and nonmarital cohabitation.

Whitehead, B. D. & Popenoe, D. (2000). Why Wed? Young Adults Talk about Sex, Love and First Unions. A focus-group report. Next Generation Series. National Marriage Project.
The objectives of this study were to explore attitudes about first union formation (both cohabitation and marriage) among a crucial but neglected population of young adults; to explore attitudes about marriage as an economic partnership; to explore attitudes on cohabitation; and to gain a better understanding of gender differences in attitudes and expectations about marriage.

Wood, R. G., Avellar, S. & Goesling, B. (2009). Pathways to Adulthood and Marriage: Teenagers' Attitudes, Expectations, and Relationship Patterns from Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., prepared for the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The study focused on teenagers' initial exposure to and experiences with romantic relationships and marriage, as well as their general attitudes toward marriage. It also examines marriage and relationship patterns among a recent cohort of young adults and identifies factors in adolescence associated with the likelihood of choosing various relationship pathways in early adulthood.

Use of Media by Teens and the Impact on Relationships and Sexual Behavior

This section provides resources on the influence of media on teens relationships. In recent years, social networks, online communication, sexting and entertainment media have all become elements of teen relationships. There is consensus in the research literature that the portrayal of sexual content in the media can influence adolescents to engage in sexual behavior or to have unhealthy perceptions of sex and relationships. It is important for practitioners to understand the implication of the use of new media on how adolescents establish, perceive and value relationships and interact with friends, family, and romantic partners.

Braun-Courville, D. K. and Rojas, M. (2009). Exposure to Sexually Explicit Web Sites and Adolescent Attitudes and Behaviors. Journal of Adolescent Health 45: 156-162.
Of the adolescent population surveyed, approximately 55% reported having visited a sexually explicit website. The study found that adolescents' exposure to internet pornography has a negative impact on teen sexual behaviors. For example, exposure to sexually explicit websites has been linked with higher number of sexual partners and participation in high risk behaviors.

Brown, J. D. (2000). Adolescents' Sexual Media Diets. Journal of Adolescent Health. 27S(2): 35-40.
The paper examines various research findings regarding the influence of media on adolescents and proposes a model for analyzing media's impact. It analyzes youth selection of media, their interaction with information presented by media, and how they apply it to their lives and the shaping of their identity. There is no single interpretation of the impact media has on youth, but media does influence the choices made by adolescents.

Bryant, Y. (2008). Relationships Between Exposure to Rap Music Videos and Attitudes toward Relationships Among African American Youth. Journal of Black Psychology 34(3): 356-380.
The paper found that adolescents who watch videos because they find it to be fun have the most adversarial opinions of male-female relationships. Adolescents who watch the same rap videos because their peers watch it have fewer adversarial opinions of male-female relationships. However, those individuals who have a strong spiritual or religious background are more likely to reject negative presentation of male-female relationships.

Junn, E. N. (1997). Media Portrayals of Love, Marriage & Sexuality for Child Audiences: A Select Content Analysis of Walt Disney Animated Family Films.
This study examined the portrayal of love, marriage, and sexuality in 11 romantic and nonromantic Disney animated films. Females were more often depicted sexually and engaged in passive love-related roles than were males. Males engaged in active love-related, stereotyped roles and made more references to marriage and weddings than did females.

The National Campaign. (2004). This is My Reality: The Price of Sex. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
Both quantitative and qualitative information is presented in this report on the thoughts and opinions of Black urban youth regarding their view on relationships, sense of self-worth, and the role of parents, among other relevant topics.

The National Campaign. (2008). Managing the Media Monster. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
While media can be a source for good such as education, it can shape teens' perceptions of sexual norms. However, the presence of other influences such as parents, guardians, and mentors can reduce the negative impact media has on the decisions made by teens.

The National Campaign. (2008). Sex and Tech: Results from the Surveys of Teens and Young Adults. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
This report examines a survey on the use of various kinds of media accessed by youth. It includes a breakdown by demographics on the use of technology and how each form of media is used. The report also considers the dangers and implications of sexting and provides definitions for various internet behaviors. While 71% of teen girls and 67% of teen boys sent sexually suggestive content to their boyfriend or girlfriend, 15% of teens who sent such content to someone they only knew online.

Lenhart, A. (2009). Teens and Sexting. Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Sexting and how sexts (sexually suggestive, nude, or nearly nude pictures) are being transmitted is explored in this article. The report indicates that while 4% of teens have sent sexts, nearly 15% have received a sext. The report examines the demographics of teens sending and receiving the sexts. Often adolescents intend for the suggestive pictures to remain private and are not aware of how quickly these pictures can be circulated around or the legal implications of distributing nude pictures.

Lenhart, A. & Madden, M. (2007). Teens, Privacy & Online Social Networks: How Teens Manage Their Online Identities and Personal Information in the age of MySpace. Pew Internet & American Life Project.
The use of social media by teens and the types of personal information teens share through these websites are explored in this report. It also examines the degree of privacy secured by teens while using the website. Findings show that boys and girls have differing ideas of privacy, and there are demographic differences in who chooses to share information.

Pipher, M. (2006). Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. ChallengingMedia.
This video includes a portrayal of women in magazines and advertisements, and explores the influence on what girls view as beauty and what they feel they need to do to secure relationships. Furthermore, the speaker believes that images presented in the media shows that women's value revolves around their sexual attractiveness. The speaker believes that images in the media have a real impact on the kinds of relationships women have with themselves, their families, and their partners.

Sniffen, C. (2010). Building Healthy Teen, Vampire, and Werewolf Relationships. California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
This audio blog interviews Start Strong Idaho, an organization working on strengthening teen relationships and reducing domestic violence, about their use of the Twilight series to engage teen opinions about dating violence. Twilight is a book/movie franchise with a strong abstinence message. The survey refers to various scenes from the book and movie as a way to gauge teens' ideas of violence and acceptable behavior, and also uses these scenes to teach teens about healthy relationships.

Subramanyam, K and Greenfield, P. (2008) Online Communication and Adolescent Relationships. Future of Children 18(1): 119-146.
This article examines how the internet influences teens' relationships with friends, romantic partners, family members, and strangers. It describes how teens use the internet not just to advance existing relationships, but to find information about people through social networking sites. The capacity for strangers to use the internet to learn about and interact with teens has implications for their safety.

Ward, L. M. (2003). Understanding the role of entertainment media in the sexual socialization of American youth: A review of empirical research. Developmental Review 23: 347-388.
An overview of the available literature is provided on the impact of television, magazines, and other media on the sexual socialization of adolescents. The literature review indicates that high exposure to sexual content results in youth acceptance of and participation in sexual behaviors portrayed in the media.

Delivering Relationship Education to Youth

While teens are incredibly focused on their love lives, until recently we have not had tools to help young people navigate them. These documents will provide strategies to engage youth in building relationship skills; from service delivery strategies to tips for parents.

Albert, B. & Sheets, J. (2009). Relationship Redux: Tips and Scripts for Talking to Your Kids About Relationships. National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
The tips outlined in this article provide parents with some thoughts on what they can say to their children about relationships and underscores why it is so important to discuss the topic.

Dion, R. & Silman, T. (2008). Starting Early: How the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative Helps Schools Prepare Young People for Healthy Marriages. ASPE Research Brief. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Office of Human Services Policy. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
To increase the odds that young people in Oklahoma will enter adult life prepared to address these important life tasks, the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative (OMI) works with the state's high schools to help them offer a research-based curriculum that addresses relationships and marriage in ways that are relevant to the needs and interests of youth.

National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. (2010). Relationships Matter: Strengthening Vulnerable Youth. Proceedings Summary. Annie E. Casey Foundation. Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development.
The primary implications of this forum were to find common ground to bring the fields of youth development and relationship education together and identify strategies for action. The suggested strategy includes the development of appropriate resources for youth and practitioners; evaluating existing programs; training youth development staff in relationship skills; and researching relationship behaviors and attitudes among vulnerable youth.

National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. (2009). Appealing to Teens to Participate in Healthy Marriage/Relationship Education.
Practical strategies to help practitioners recruit teens into their MRE services and tips to be able to explain why teen marriage/relationship education matters; choose a setting and/or partnership; market the message; and consider recruitment options.

National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. (2010). Delivering Relationship Education to College Students.
Strategies on how to market, prepare, and deliver MRE in a university setting are outlined in this guide.

National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. (2009). Characteristics of Successful Youth Programs
This Tip Sheet is designed for practioners who are developing a relationship education program for youth. Teens live in a multi-media world, so it's important to make the information current and relevant to them. Trying to "teach" in a traditional, instructional manner is not the best way to reach today's kids.

Popenoe, D. & Whitehead, B. D. (2000).Ten Things Teens Should Know About Marriage. National Marriage Project.
Research Resources Ten tips to help teens improve current relationships and prepare for eventual marriage. Topics include benefits of marriage, premarital sex, age at first marriage, choosing a marriage partner, premarital cohabitation, and premarital education.

National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. (2009).How to Teach Your Child About Healthy Marriage.
This Tip Sheet provides strategies and tips for parents on how to talk to their children about healthy marriage.

National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. (2009). Talking to Your Teen About Healthy Relationships.
By applying these tips at home and in the classroom, parents and practitioners can help teens articulate, prepare for and realize their goals of current healthy relationships and a future healthy marriage.

National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. (2011).Relationships Matter: Partnering to Prevent Unplanned Pregnancy.
Proceedings Summary. Annie E. Casey Foundation. Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development. The primary implications of this forum were to find common ground to bring the fields of pregnancy prevention and relationship education together and identify strategies for action. The suggested strategy includes the development of appropriate resources for youth and practitioners; evaluating existing programs; training pregnancy prevention staff in relationship skills; and researching relationship behaviors and attitudes among vulnerable youth.

Dating Violence

A priority in teaching young people healthy relationship skills is teaching them how to avoid and leave unsafe relationships. This Collection includes both research and practical advice for teens and the adults who care about them. Research shows that when a young person learns how to get smart about their love lives, their aggression (both verbal and physical) with peers decreases. Teaching teens a robust set of skills to build a healthy relationship can be a protective factor.

Break the Cycle. (2008). State-by-State Teen Dating Violence Report Card.
The first-ever state-by-state report cards evaluating the level of legal protection each state offers young victims of domestic and dating violence. The report was issued in conjunction with National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week, February 4-8, 2008.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Break the Silence, Stop the Violence. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. CDC Featured Podcasts.
In this podcast, parents talk with real teens before dating, stay involved in their lives, and role model to help young people develop healthy, respectful relationships. It stresses the importance of discussing healthy relationships with teenagers, the warning signs of abuse and prevention.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2006). Physical Dating Violence Among High School Students - United States, 2003. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Department of Health and Human Services.
This article in brief addresses the incidence of physical dating violence among high school adolescents and introduces risk as well as protective factors.

Davis, A. (2008). Interpersonal and Physical Dating Violence among Teens (FOCUS). National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
Exposure to interpersonal violence often begins in early adolescence and continues into adulthood. This Focus attempts to bring to light various aspects of a little-studied issue of critical importance, especially to youth.

Dibble Institute. Dating Violence Protocol for Educators.
This resource for MRE practitioners provides background on teen dating violence, the warning signs, and how to respond to students involved in dating violence in the context of delivering relationship education.

Family Violence Prevention Fund. (2009). The Facts on Teens and Dating Violence
This Fact Sheet provides information regarding the prevalence and consequences of teen dating violence and other emerging issues.

Gover, A. R., Kaukinen, C. & Fox, K. A. (2008). The Relationship Between Violence in the Family of Origin and Dating Violence Among College Students. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
This research examines the relationship between experiencing and perpetrating dating violence and exposure to violence in the family of origin. Specifically, the current research examines gender differences in the relationship between exposure to violence during childhood and physical and psychological abuse perpetration and victimization. The implications of the current research on policy are discussed.

National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. (2009). Strategies and Tips for Parents on Talking To Your Teen About Dating Safety
Parents play a vital role in helping teens recognize the red flags of an unhealthy relationship in and ending an abusive relationship. This document offers tips and strategies to help parents open the lines of communication with their teen about dating violence and safety.

Weidmer, B. A., Shelley, G. A., and Jaycox, L. H. (2007). Latino Teens Talk about Help Seeking and Help Giving in Relation to Dating Violence. Violence Against Women 13(2), 172-189.
The authors examine attitudes about help-seeking and help-giving behaviors related to dating violence among Latino ninth graders, including survey and focus group data. Latino teens are more likely to seek help for a dating violence situation from informal sources of support and do not confide in or trust the adults in their social network.

Additional Resources


Links for Practitioners:

Break the Cycle -

Child Trends -

Coalition for Marriage, Couples, and Family Education -

Forum on Child and Family Statistics -

National Marriage Project -

Pew Research: Marriage and Divorce Statistics: A 50 State Tour -

Links for Parents:

Parent Portal on Healthy Relationships -

Talking to teenagers about healthy dating relationships and marriage - 

Links for Teens:

Boss of Me -

Relationship Reality (The Dibble Institute and The National Campaign) -

Real Teen Relationships -

The Safe Space -

Talk to Friends (First Things First) -

Two of Us (National Healthy Marriage Resource Center) -

Marline Pearson answers "What's so good about healthy relationships for teens?" in this video -

Curricula for Youth

As more research is available on how to build healthy, successful relationships and marriages, creative program developers are translating that work into appealing formats to reach young people. The breadth of programming currently available is listed on the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center website and on the Dibble Institute website at Often, sample lessons to review are available on the websites listed.