Written by Makeela Wells
Due to the compounded effects that are associated with race, African Americans have a greater likelihood of experiencing long periods of singlehood and exposure to unhealthy relationships (Chaney & Fairfax, 2013). The hope for this blog post is to provide African American adolescents and young adults with a glimpse of the qualities of a healthy dating relationship from the perspective of young African Americans males.
African American Males’ Perceptions of Healthy Dating Relationships
Limited information exists on African American males’ perceptions of healthy dating relationships. Research is even more limited when attempting to understand the perceptions of young African American males regarding dating relationships. Interviews that were conducted by Howard and colleagues (2015) in the Washington, D.C. area indicated that there were four qualities that were important to young African American males in a healthy dating relationship: trust, communication, general connection/compatibility, and respect. African American males stated that trust was the most important quality in a healthy dating relationship (Howard, John, Gilchrist, & Aiken, 2015). Without trust, there is no relationship or point to dating. Honesty and communication promote trust in dating relationships. Honesty was described as being truthful, not playing games, and being willing to tell each other everything.
In terms of general connection and compatibility, African American males stated that it was important to be with someone who understands them and someone who was smart, independent and career-driven. Other aspects of general connection and compatibility included emotional and physical connections (Howard et al., 2015). African American males made reference to their partners understanding them and being there for them. In terms of physical connection, African American males discussed that a balance must exist between physical attraction and communication. Lastly, African American males asserted that respect was also key to healthy dating relationships. This included respecting a partner’s boundaries and neither partner disrespecting the other. A third sign of respect in a healthy relationship was not engaging in physical or emotional abuse with one’s partner (Howard et al., 2015).
What can be done to promote healthy dating relationships for emerging adults in the future?
Interviews and focus groups with both African American parents and adolescents are essential to gaining better knowledge of adolescent dating among African Americans. This information can aid adolescents and young adults in understanding the role and qualities of healthy dating relationships as they transition into adulthood, where intimate relationships begin to become more permanent. Another way to promote healthy dating relationships among emerging adults is to provide workshops on the benefits and challenges of dating relationships for adolescents and young adults. Opening and expanding the conversation on adolescent dating not only allows adolescents to know and understand the qualities that are associated with a healthy dating relationship, but it also allows them to be valued contributors to the knowledge on adolescent dating.
Additional references: Learn more about African American adolescent dating relationships and healthy dating relationships.
To see if you are in a healthy dating relationship, take the Healthy Relationship Quiz.
Author Unknown. (2013). Dating Basics. Is My Relationship Healthy? Love is Respect. Retrieved from
Chaney, C., & Fairfax, C. N. (2013). A change has come: The Obamas and the culture of black marriage in America. Ethnicities, 13, 20–48. doi: 10.1177/1468796812463546
Howard, D., C. John, B. Gilchrist, I. Royster, & N. Aiken. (2015). Adolescent African American Males’
Characterizations of Healthy Dating Relationships: A Challenge to One-dimensional
stereotypes. Journal of Child & Adolescent behavior, 3(6), 256-261.
Dr. H. Colleen Sinclair
Social Psychologist, Relationships Researcher,
Ms. Jessica Utley
Lab Manager of the Social Relations Collaborative and Blog Editor