Promoting Healthy Relationships Among Young Parents

February 18, 2021
Young couple holding hands

AUTHOR: LINDA BOYER

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. This annual campaign highlights the painful reality that domestic or intimate partner violence often starts during teenage dating experiences and carries over into adult romantic and marital relationships. While almost 4 out of 10 custodial parents in the child support program experience domestic violence, younger parents receiving child support services are even more likely to have experienced some kind of relationship violence.

Young adult parents who are survivors of relationship violence need financial resources to be able to leave and stay out of an abusive relationship. More than two-thirds of those who experience domestic violence stay with or return to an abuser because of financial need. Financial stability and support are at the very heart of our work in child support. We must be attuned to the impact violence has on younger parents in our caseload, and work to ensure their safety as we help them get the financial support they need.

Preventing dating violence through education

One way that child support agencies can help prevent dating violence is by including information on healthy and unhealthy relationships as part of paternity and child support education in schools and with youth-serving organizations. OCSE recently awarded nine Section 1115 grants to states to educate and motivate young adults to postpone parenthood until after they complete their education, start a career, and have a committed relationship. Grantees are required to include information on relationship violence prevention and provide resources to help those who have experienced dating violence. Learn about a second funding opportunity to encourage responsible parenting in young adults Visit disclaimer page .

Unfortunately, teen dating violence doesn’t just go away after becoming an adult; the violence tends to “grow up” too. In the February Child Support Report is a deeply moving and personal story of surviving domestic violence as told by one of our state child support colleagues (see page 3).

By taking a multi-generational approach—working to prevent the violence with teens and young adults while ensuring survivors can safely get financial support—we play an essential role in ending relationship violence and the damage it does to families.

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