The Journal of Primary Prevention

, Volume 35, Issue 6, pp 397–407 | Cite as

“If You Don’t Have Honesty in a Relationship, Then There Is No Relationship”: African American Girls’ Characterization of Healthy Dating Relationships, A Qualitative Study

  • Katrina J. DebnamEmail author
  • Donna E. Howard
  • Mary A. Garza
Original Paper


The quality of dating relationships in adolescence can have long lasting effects on identity development, self-esteem, and interpersonal skills, and can shape values and behaviors related to future intimate relationships. The aims of this study were to: (1) investigate how African American adolescent girls characterize healthy relationships; and (2) describe the meanings of these characteristics in the context of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 12 healthy dating relationship qualities. We conducted semi-structured one-on-one in-depth interviews with 33 African American high school girls in the mid-Atlantic region. Trained staff transcribed interviews verbatim and entered the data into ATLAS.ti for coding and analysis. Participants’ specified and vividly described eight healthy relationship characteristics: good communication, honesty, trust, respect, compromise, understanding, individuality, and self-confidence. Of these characteristics, three (good communication, compromise, and respect) were described in ways discordant with CDC’s definitions. Findings highlight a need to better understand how girls develop values and ascribe characteristics of healthy relationships in order to reduce their risk for teen dating violence.


Romantic relationships Dating violence Adolescent 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrina J. Debnam
    • 1
    Email author
  • Donna E. Howard
    • 2
  • Mary A. Garza
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Mental HealthJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of Behavioral and Community Health, School of Public HealthUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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