Recognising the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships
Children and young people might not always understand that a relationship they are in is unhealthy. If they have been groomed for example, they might believe they are in a healthy relationship. If they have experienced unhealthy or abusive family relationships, they might never have known any different.
This means children and young people might not always speak out about unhealthy relationships. So it's really important that the adults around them are able to spot the warning signs.
Signs of healthy relationships
A healthy relationship is one where a young person is respected and feels valued for who they are. It’s where they can openly share their thoughts and feelings and feel supported and encouraged.
Healthy relationships include:
- good communication
- mutual respect
- being yourself.
In a healthy relationship a person is free to make choices about their own behaviour and is not controlled or coerced into doing anything.
Signs of unhealthy relationships
An unhealthy relationship is one where a child is not being treated with respect. They might be forced or coerced into doing things they aren’t comfortable with, be made to behave in a certain way, or be made to feel they aren’t good enough. Because young people don't always realise when they are in an unhealthy relationship, it is important that adults are able to recognise the signs.
A young person might:
- not have close relationships other than with one particular person
- be isolated from friends and family
- be prevented from working or going to school, college or university
- have their money taken away or controlled
- have access to food, drinks and day-to-day items restricted
- have their time controlled or heavily monitored
- have their social media accounts controlled or heavily monitored
- be told what to wear
- feel pressured to do things they are not comfortable with
- be put down or criticised
- experience threats of violence if they don’t behave a certain way
- experience threats to loved ones or pets
- be threatened with damage to their personal property
(Women's Aid, 2015).
Displaying unhealthy behaviours
Sometimes children and young people display unhealthy behaviours towards someone else. If a child is becoming possessive, controlling or violent towards another person, or displaying bullying or harmful sexual behaviour, this might be an indicator that something else in their life is causing them distress. It's vital that you respond quickly to ensure the child gets the support they need and their behaviour does not cause harm.
> See our resources about harmful sexual behaviour
> Get more information on bullying