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REACH, TEACH & SUPPORT Sexual Health Promotion Conference Tuesday 24 th August 2010. Kylie Murphy Safe in Romantic Relationships Project RMIT University, Bundoora. Maximising ‘healthy relationships’ education with adolescents. What we know about Healthy Relationships Education

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kylie murphy safe in romantic relationships project rmit university bundoora

REACH, TEACH & SUPPORT

Sexual Health Promotion Conference

Tuesday 24th August 2010

Kylie Murphy

Safe in Romantic Relationships Project

RMIT University, Bundoora

Maximising ‘healthy relationships’ education with adolescents

session overview
What we know about Healthy Relationships Education

What we know about Abusive Relationships:

A model for responding preventatively

Findings of a recent program trial

Opportunities for integration?

Session overview
what do we know

Little is known about what constitutes effective “healthy relationships” education because very little program evaluation has occurred in this area

But preventative education with young people is not new; program evaluation in other areas tells us…

What do we know?
what works best
Effective programs

Unproven programs

  • Based on sound theory
  • Clear attitudinal and behavioural objectives
  • Build skills for responding to real-life situations
  • Recognise participants’ existing strengths and insights
  • Empowerment-oriented
  • Facilitate interaction and discussion closely related to program objectives
  • Evaluation is built-in and continual
  • Weak theoretical rationale
  • Only attitudinal or awareness-raising objectives
  • Presume only weaknesses and deficits in participants
  • Risk-focussed, scaremongering
  • Didactic – lecture-style delivery
  • Poorly structured – discussion goes wherever the facilitator or participants feel like going
  • Little thought given to evaluation
What works best?
dictum evidence ideology

Dictum

  • An authoritative or popular statement

Evidence

  • Facts or observations that support a claim
    • Can be collected and viewed selectively

Ideology

  • A set of ideas and principles that come to have a strong influence
dictum, evidence & Ideology
abusive relationships

There are many types of abusive relationship

    • Uni-directional, bi-directional, symmetrical
    • Same-sex and heterosexual relationships
    • Common factor is harm-causing interactions
      • Most harmful when these interactions are chronic and/or escalatory
    • Abusive interactions can cause different types of harm…
abusive relationships
considering harm

Typesof harm

        • Social harms
        • Emotional harms
        • Physical harms
  • Physical abuse is not necessarily more harmful than other forms of abuse
  • Abusive interactions tendto cause greaterharm for girls and women than for boys and men
  • Abusive interactions also harm the development of children who grow up in abusive environments
considering harm
what causes relationship abuse

No factor or set of factors has been found to ‘cause’ a relationship to become harmful

  • But many ‘risk factors’ increase the odds of serious harm occurring in a relationship:
    • Past relational experiences
    • Emotional deficits
    • Learned behaviours
    • Beliefs and attitudes
    • Situational factors
What causes relationship abuse?
relationship abuse risk factors

Perpetration factors increase the odds of behaving abusively with a partner

  • Victimisation factors increase the odds of being abused by a partner
    • The same risk factors for perpetration apply to males and females
    • Many perpetration risk factors are also victimisation risk factors
relationship abuse Risk factors
when is the risk greatest

The strongestpredictors of serious harm occurring in a relationship are

    • The existence of risk factors in bothpartners
      • Accommodation of abusive behaviours by one or both partners leading to entrenched abuse

and/or

      • Reciprocity of abusive behaviourleading to harmful escalations
When is the risk greatest?
dyadic slippery slope model

Based on contemporary researchwith young people in western cultures

  • Concerned with the experiences and behaviours of individuals in relationships
    • Does not deal with harassment, assaults or other forms of abuse that occur outside of relationships
“Dyadic slippery slope” model
slide14

Background Risk Factors

Attachment Experiences, Abuse, Neglect, Community & Family Violence, Popular Media

Personal ‘Slippery Slope’ Vulnerability Factors

Behavioural Repertoire & Conditioning

Attitudes & Beliefs

Emotional & Relational factors

Exposure to partner’s Warning-Sign Behaviours (WSB)

Accommodation and/or Aggressionresponses feed Anger, Overdependence, and/orPower imbalance

Repeated exposure or intensification...

Serious Social, Emotional, and/or Physicalharms

warning sign behaviours wsb s

Dominance-Seeking – “Bossiness”

Possessiveness – “Ownership”

Denigration – “Meanness”

Conflict Control Tactics – “Unfair Arguing”

Retaliatory responding – “Revenge”

Warning sign behaviours (wsbs)
what does this model mean for prevention

There is a role for youth-targeted education to play in

  • Minimising harmful outcomes in young people’s early relationships and
  • Reducing family violence in future generations

1. Raisingawareness of how the relationship abuse “slippery slope” works

2. Promotingskills for resisting the “slippery slope” from when the earliest WSBs appear

What does this model mean for prevention?
maximising effectiveness

Need to address young people’s attitudes and behaviours

    • Attitudes about WSBs, self-agency, responsibility, etc
    • Behavioural repertoire for responding to WSBs
  • Need to take a gender-inclusive approach
    • Recognising the role of both partners in setting the course of a relationship
    • Recognising that male and female partners cause harm
    • Recognising that not all abusive relationships are heterosexual
    • Itdoes not mean ignoring or denying gender influences
Maximising effectiveness
program characteristics

Theory-based: ‘Dyadic slippery slope’ model

  • Based on clear attitudinal and behavioural objectives
  • Builds skills for responding to real-life situations
  • Empowerment-oriented
  • Recognises existing strengths and insights
  • Facilitates interaction and discussion related to the program’s objectives
  • Evaluation is built into the program

At this stage, piloted only with girls

    • Acknowledges girls’ potential for positive self-agency
    • Respects most girls’ perceptions of self as powerful
Program characteristics
program content

Five modules

  • Choosing; Noticing; Responding; Ending; Bouncing Back

‘Noticing’ module

  • “Slippery Slope” Dynamics: Silence, Overdependence, Anger, Power-Imbalance
  • Types of Warning Sign Behaviour (WSB): Bossiness, Ownership, Meanness, Unfair Arguing, Revenge

‘Responding’ module

  • Accepting v Aggressing v Asserting
  • Likely long-term outcomes of each way of responding to each type of WSB
  • Observing, scripting and practicing assertive responses to specific WSBs
Program Content
evaluation findings

Increased sensitivity to the risk associated with all types of WSB

Increased tendency to propose assertive responses to hypothetical WSB situations

Decreased tendency to propose aggressive responses to WSB by a partner

Strengthened sense of self-agency

Decreased victim blaming

Evaluation Findings
challenges to current ideology

Fears about encouraging victim blaming

Can harness girls’ potential for positive self-agency without contributing to victim blaming

Importance of a structural feminist framework

Program was effective without focusing on gender-based inequalities, norms, stereotypes, etc.

Validity of “the problem is male” claim

Many girls’ pre-program responses to WSB were rewarding and/or aggressive depending on the WSB

Usefulness of “perpetrator/victim” thinking

Perpetrator and victim roles are not well defined in young people’s relationships; need to teach skills for ‘keeping a grip’ in potential slippery slope situations regardless of who initiates WSB

Challenges to current ideology
should healthy relationships education and sexuality education be integrated
Effective learning

poorer learning

  • Cross-disciplinary, deep, question-based, meaningful
  • Disjointed, short units of study that are perceived to be unrelated to each other
Should healthy relationships education and sexuality education be integrated?
slide25

Are there themes, knowledge or skills common to ‘sexual and reproductive health’ and ‘healthy relationships’ education?

  • Making no-regret decisions
  • Achieving “fair control” in relationships
  • Relationship rights and responsibilities
  • Others…

Or should these subjects be delivered as distinct units?

thank you

Kylie Murphy

Safe in Romantic Relationships project

RMIT University, Bundoora

safe-relationships@rmit.edu.au

Ph. 0468 718 736

Thank you
vels interpersonal development

Level 4 (Grade 5/6)

  • Describe impact of bullying
  • Accepting others’ viewpoints
  • Displaying empathy for others’ feelings
  • Identify and use a range of strategies to manage and resolve conflict

Level 5 (Year 7/8)

  • Demonstrate respect for the individuality of others
  • Recognise and describe peer influence on their behaviour
  • Select and use appropriate strategies to manage individual conflict and assist others in resolution processes

Level 6 (Year 9/10)

  • Demonstrate awareness of complex social conventions
  • Evaluate their own behaviour in relationships
  • Identify potential conflict and employ strategies to avoid and/or resolve it
VELS: Interpersonal Development