The first approaches of human beings to each other seeking interactions with a clear sexual or love interest usually occur during adolescence. This research indicates that it is the first experiences that define the behavior patterns in couple relationships in adulthood, especially if they are marked by violence.
These results suggest a profound question: how urgent and essential it is to teach young people how healthy, real and respectful relationships work in adulthood. From the family, the school, the media and the social networks, models are offered that reproduce an imaginary of myths in unreal couple relationships, based on emotional dependence and mismatched patterns of domination / submission.
These prototypes are typical of a patriarchy that suffocates them, with roles that avoid, for example, being autonomous and having confidence in their own decisions, but also them, locking them in roles that prevent them, for example, from expressing emotions or showing vulnerability, so necessary in real healthy relationships.
The role of the family and the school
The family is the context of greatest influence on the socialization of gender and also of couple relationships. However, we cannot choose the family that has touched us, and for this reason some people are forced to become impregnated with the patterns with which their fathers and mothers relate, based on violence as a way to resolve conflicts, lack of respect and inequality.
For these people, school can be a lifeline. School is one of the most democratic tools that we have in society, since it allows us to educate and promote critical thinking, so important to be able to question those social patterns that confine affective and sexual relationships to relationship models outdated, unequal, and clearly unethical with respect to basic human rights.
Here are some research-based recommendations for promoting healthy relationships:
Family relationships are a source of socialization for young people in gender roles. Fathers and mothers are role models and that is why they must take special care how they treat each other in front of their children.
A parenting style that establishes clear limits for young people, combined with relationships between parents and progeny marked by emotional closeness and open and positive communication seem to have a protective function for adolescents against gender violence in dating .
Adolescence is a period of affirmation of one’s own identity that entails a process of distancing and independence from fathers and mothers. It is recommended that parents know how to accept a supervisory background, since it is easier for a teacher, friend or brother / sister to be the support figure that allows the adolescent to leave an unhealthy relationship (as an aggressor or victim).
It is inadvisable for fathers and mothers to force a break in a relationship marked by violence, since it can be perceived by the adolescent as an imposition that relegates him to a secondary role in decision-making in his life. It is essential to keep open the ways and spaces for communication and conflict resolution, avoiding lawsuits and showing daughters and sons that love has to do with behaviors and not just feelings.
For teachers and educational centers:
Coeducation or education in gender equality values helps prevent the development of dominance and control beliefs over women and sexist behaviors related to the undervaluation of women.
The teachers can become the adult persons of reference for adolescents who live at home in a situation of violence in their parents and who start a relationship in which, with great probability, they will repeat the relationship pattern that they have seen in the womb of the family, as aggressors or as victims.
Educational centers must adopt egalitarian relationship and prevention guidelines at all levels, detecting and helping to find solutions and alternatives in the cases already established (Equality Plans), incorporating into the curriculum the critical analysis of myths and beliefs and making special emphasis on the stereotypes that are being handled by both male and female teachers and boys and girls.
It is important for adolescents to become accustomed to contrasting information and to have critical thinking about the content that appears in the media, video games, social networks and the Internet and to encourage the use of equal content in the rights and roles of men and women in the society.
Finally, the research shows that adolescence is, perhaps, the vital period with the most consequences in our lives. It is of such importance that, for example, it marks whether healthy relationships will be established in adulthood.
Amapola Povedano-Díaz, Professor of Social Psychology at the University. Positive adolescent development from a gender perspective. Employability, Entrepreneurship, Internships., Pablo de Olavide University
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original.