Is My Child's Relationship Unhealthy?

By Sarah Rotsinger-Stemen, Psy.D.

The thought that your student could be in an unhealthy relationship can be both difficult to accept and challenging to deal with. As a parent, it is important to know the warning signs of an abusive intimate relationship and know how best to intervene if your child is in one. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that dating violence occurs with same-sex and opposite-sex couples, and a person of any gender can be abusive or the victim of abuse.


The prevalence of intimate partner violence among the college-age population has become a growing concern. The Center for Disease Control’s 2015 National Intimate Partner Sexual Violence Survey surveyed people on the experience of having been raped, physical assaulted, and/or stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Thirty-eight percent of the women who responded to the survey and 40 percent of the men were between 18 and 24 years of age when they first experienced violence by an intimate partner.

Warning Signs

  • Your student’s partner is extremely jealous or possessive
  • You notice unexplained marks or bruises on your child
  • Your student’s partner emails or texts them excessively
  • Your student spends all of their free time with their partner at the expense of extracurricular activities or other interests they used to have
  • Your student stops spending time with or being in touch with other friends and family
  • Your student begins to dress differently
  • You notice that your child has become depressed or anxious and/or has lower self-esteem since the relationship started

How to Intervene

If you are concerned that your child is in an abusive relationship, encourage them to make an appointment at CAPS by stopping by or calling us during business hours at (415) 422-6352. USF students and their loved ones can call our After Hours service (same number as our business line) when our office is closed for support or consultation.