‘Everyone knows someone in an unhealthy relationship’: Young people’s talk about intimate heterosexual relationships in England

Abbott, Keeley and Weckesser, Annalise and Egan, Helen (2020) ‘Everyone knows someone in an unhealthy relationship’: Young people’s talk about intimate heterosexual relationships in England. Sex Education. ISSN 1468-1811

Everyone knows someone in an unhealthy relationship_Accepted version.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (817kB)


Research suggests that intimate relationship violence and coercive control is prevalent in young people’s relationships. Furthermore, young people often fail to recognise such behaviour as abuse. While such findings indicate the normalisation of controlling and coercive behaviours amongst young people, there is little focus on how these behaviours are normalised. This paper presents findings from a study exploring young people’s experiences and expectations of intimate relationships. Focus groups were conducted with young people (aged 13 to 18) in schools in the West Midlands, England. Young people talked of navigating precarious and competitive heterosexual relationships. Their expectations and negotiations of these relationships often upheld and reinforced gender double standards around dating practices. Young people’s discussion also highlighted how they came to accept and rationalise controlling and coercive behaviours as ‘love’, ‘care’ and ‘protection’, legitimising these practices as reasonable. Heteronormativity remains a dominant discourse shaping young people’s experiences and expectations of relationships with coercion and control being defining features of this discourse. Supporting young people to critically examine constructs of heterosexuality and gender norms should be a key component of England’s forthcoming statutory Relationship and Sex Education.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1080/14681811.2020.1801407
17 July 2020Accepted
19 August 2020Published
Uncontrolled Keywords: Intimate (heterosexual) relationships, young people, gender norms, gender power relations, coercive control
Subjects: CAH04 - psychology > CAH04-01 - psychology > CAH04-01-01 - psychology (non-specific)
Divisions: Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences > Dept. Psychology
Depositing User: Keeley (staff) Abbott
Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2020 14:23
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2022 15:42
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/9799

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


In this section...