Skip to main content

Care Versus Control: Healthy Relationships

A report from Girlguiding

With over half a million members, Girlguiding is the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK. We believe passionately that girls should be given a voice about issues that they care about and have the opportunity to shape the world they want to live in. Each year, Girlguiding’s Girls’ Attitudes Survey asks girls across the UK for their opinions on the big issues affecting their lives – body image, equality, sex education, cyber-safety, bullying, glass ceilings and more. Our 2012 survey revealed concerning findings about young people’s attitudes towards coercion and control in relationships.

We felt strongly that we should listen to those young people and commission research that examined girls’ understanding of healthy and positive relationships in greater depth. We were particularly proud to do this as part of our 2013 partnership with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) on its Stop the Violence campaign.

Our new report, Care Versus Control: Healthy Relationships, finds that too many girls are ready to accept controlling behaviour and see it as a normal part of a ‘caring’ relationship. The constant checking-in and monitoring via the internet and mobile phones risk spilling over into their lives offline, leading to a culture of insecurity in which young people expect to keep continual tabs on each other. We know from our daily work with young women across the UK that expectations about relationships are often formed when girls are teenagers. Without the right support to interpret and examine their experiences, it is all too easy for girls to form unhealthy patterns of behaviour in early relationships that they can take with them into adulthood.

The responsibility for forming healthy relationships belongs with girls and boys together. However, we also believe that girls benefit hugely from the opportunity to explore these issues from their own specific perspective.

That is why Girlguiding remains so committed to providing a safe, non-judgemental, girl-only space in which we can support girls with information and expertise. This space enables them to learn from their experiences, to develop their views about the world, and to build the confidence and resilience to be able to make the best possible decisions for themselves.

Putting young people directly in charge of the issues we speak out about is right at the heart of Girlguiding’s approach to advocacy. The girls and young women we work with constantly inspire and challenge us with their insights and beliefs. We hope you will the find same.