Informal Help-Seeking Process Regarding Romantic Issues and Dating Violence: a Qualitative Study

  • Mylène FernetEmail author
  • Laura Désilets
  • Martine Hébert
  • Marie-Marthe Cousineau
Original Article


The present study focused on the informal help-seeking process, facilitators and barriers in the context of romantic relationship difficulties and dating violence (DV). This study also aimed to describe gender specificities involved in the help-seeking process. Data analysis was performed relying on the help-seeking and change model developed for intimate partner violence (American Journal of Community Psychology, 36, 71-84, 2005). A direct content analysis was conducted on semi-structured interviews of 80 youths. All participants reported having experienced at least one romantic relationship difficulty and half of them reported at least one experience of DV victimization in their current romantic relationship. Motives to seek support and help were mentioned by the participants, namely the need to be advised on how to solve their difficulties, to express their emotions and vent about their feelings, to obtain an external point of view, to be listened to and comforted, and to be validated on their interpretation of the situation. When experiencing difficulties, participants chose confidants according to the following qualities: share bond of trust, similar experiences, mutual help and reciprocity, relevant experiences in dating relationships, and a context of respect and non-judgment. Reluctance to ask for help was expressed by participants, namely discomfort about sharing intimate information or revealing feelings to a friend or family member, lack of support, and fear of being judged or vulnerable. Findings highlight the strategic role of peers and the importance of offering them tools to intervene as first responders in DV situations.


Informal help-seeking Romantic issues Adolescents Emerging adults Dating violence 



The authors wish to thank adolescents and young adults who participated in this project, and the community organizations who were involved.


The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council [# 410–2008-1807] awarded to Mylène Fernet; and a grant [# 895–2012-1027] awarded to Marie-Marthe Cousineau.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of sexologyUniversité du Québec à MontréalQuébecCanada
  2. 2.School of criminologyUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada

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