There are many teens that end up getting involved in an abusive dating relationship. The type of abuse can vary from verbal to sexual. To help understand why some teens may get involved in an abusive dating relationship, what type of impact the abusive relationship can have on the teen and what you can do as a parent to prevent your teen from getting involved in an abusive relationship, I have interviewed licensed Marriage and Family therapist Jay Jameson.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology from California State University, at Long Beach. I then went on to get my graduate degree in Counseling Psychology from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of California.”
“TEEN SUCCESS is the motto for my practice. I specialize in adolescent and family counseling and parent coaching. I am a clinician with over 16 years of experience in treating difficult, acting-out adolescents and their families. My goal is to help teens and families get though this often-difficult period of life. I also enjoy helping young adults transition towards independence. I see individuals and families who are struggling with their family relationships. My greatest therapeutic strength is that I am able to build quick rapport with resistant teenagers who might not want to be in therapy. My clients see me as a “regular guy” and not a “shrink” which allows for a very positive therapeutic relationship. I have worked in school settings, special education and residential treatment settings for many years. The teens and families that I see in treatment are rewarded with closer family relationships, increased success in school and improved peer relationships.”
How do some teens get involved in an abusive dating relationship?
“It seems to happen before they know it. The bottom line for teens and adults is that people who are an abusive relationship are unable to draw a clear boundary that says “I demand to be treated a certain way.” There can be many reasons for this but it boils down to a self-image that is not healthy. There is usually a connection to the individual’s family of origin. For example if a teen watches a parent stay in an abusive relationship or if a teen was actually abused by his/her parent. It is much less common among individuals who have healthy parents and healthy relationships with those parents.”
What type of impact can an abusive dating relationship have on a teen’s overall life?
“It depends on how long they engage in unhealthy dating relationships. It also depends on the type and severity of the abuse. I see everything from full on date rape with beatings to chronic put-downs. Severe physical and/or sexual trauma is clearly going to have a different impact than verbal abuse, although both can be devastating. Social isolation, co-occurring depression, and PTSD are fairly common. Anxiety related disorders could also develop, especially if they are in the relationship for a long period of time. The general point is that an abusive relationship puts a massive amount of stress on the victim and this can create multiple psychological and social issues.”
What can a parent do to prevent their teen from getting involved in an abusive dating relationship?
“There is an easy and short answer to that. Parents should have a healthy, loving relationship with their children before they become teens, and should also model healthy relationships with their spouse or significant other. This is the number one thing that will severely decrease the chances that their child will get involved in an abusive relationship. A teen that truly feels good about him/herself is much less likely to stay with an abusive partner.”
What can a parent do if it’s too late and their teen is in an abusive dating relationship?
“Most importantly with teens is that, as a parent, you do not want to create a “Romeo and Juliet” syndrome with your teen. What I mean by this is that you do not want to approach them in a way that is going to cause them to become more secretive about the nature of the relationship. This is a very delicate balance and one that I am not sure I could pull off myself, but it is critical. With teens you can easily set up a scenario where they feel that no one understands them and everyone is against them and their boyfriend/girlfriend. It can become an “us versus the world” mentality. Obviously if there is any physical or sexual abuse the police should be contacted immediately. It is the verbal/psychological abuse that has less clear guidelines about how to respond. You want to keep your teen talking and help him/her to see the nature of the relationship. This means not lecturing him/her about what is wrong with the relationship but coaching the teen to see the problems in the relationship for themselves.”
Thank you Jay for doing the interview. For more information on Jay Jameson you can check out his website on JayJameson.com.
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