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“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

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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.

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Correspondence to Katrina J. Debnam.

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Debnam, K.J., Howard, D.E. & Garza, M.A. “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. J Primary Prevent 35, 397–407 (2014).

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