Ideals and Reality: Perceptions of Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships Among Foster Youth

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Exploring romantic relationships is a hallmark of adolescence. As dating relationships are often new during this development trajectory, learning how to be in a relationship (e.g., learning healthy communication skills, etc.) is necessary to facilitate positive partnerships during the transition to adulthood. However, foster youth are a group routinely overlooked within the literature on developing positive and healthy relationships. This formative, exploratory study utilizes focus groups and in-depth interviews to understand foster youth perceptions of healthy and unhealthy dating relationships through a social learning theory lens. Findings explore foster youth perceptions of ideal relationships, the realities of their lived relational experiences, as well as the lessons learned that they would like to impart on future generations of foster youth. Implications for research, practice, and policy (e.g., the need for communication skill building, comprehensive sex and relationship education, as well as screenings for dating violence) are also explored.



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