PROMOTING HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS TO REDUCE VIOLENCE
- Focus on the unequal power relations, relationship conflict, and poor communication that drive intimate partner violence
- Work with both members of a couple to promote healthy relationships
- Are typically group-based and follow a participatory curriculum of 10 to 20-plus workshops, combining single-sex and mixed sessions
- Emphasise critical reﬂection about gender roles and norms and about building knowledge and skills for healthy, non-violent relationships
This page gives key resources and selected examples.
Couples programmes foster change processes at the couples level, directly addressing risks for intimate partner violence. They improve communication and conflict management skills, reduce depression and alcohol use, and contribute to more equitable decision-making, all of which reduce the risk for intimate partner violence. Effective programmes foster critical reflection on gender and power dynamics, as well as build skills to strengthen relationships and cope with triggers.
“ASPIRATIONAL AND INSPIRING PROGRAMME CONTENT AND MESSAGES OFTEN WORK BEST…[THE COUPLES PROGRAMMES REVIEWED] EXPLICITLY CHOSE NOT TO FRAME THEIR PROGRAMMES AROUND VIOLENCE PREVENTION AND INSTEAD USED THE TERMINOLOGY OF CULTIVATING ‘HARMONIOUS AND PEACEFUL RELATIONSHIPS’, ‘HEALTHY FAMILIES’ OR ‘HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS’.”
Historically, some people hesitated to work with couples, worrying it would increase women’s risk in already violent relationships. However, evidence suggests that appropriate measures can ensure women’s and children’s safety.
Important precautions include
- Strong design and implementation
- Careful monitoring of any unexpected harmful outcomes
- Planning for referral and support services
Careful selection, training, and support of facilitators and staff are crucial to ensure effective, safe implementation and, in turn, to support participants.
The core components of couples programmes—critical reflection on gender, power, and violence and strengthened skills around self-regulation, conflict resolution, and communication—may be key to reducing both intimate partner violence and violence against children.
Several programmes focusing on couples have reduced harsh corporal punishment of children. There is great potential to incorporate additional content and skills around non-violent parenting into couples’ programmes and to measure both intimate partner violence and violence against children as outcomes.
NOTE: Strengthening relationships is a key strategy under both the United Nations framework to reduce violence against women (RESPECT) and the United Nations strategy to reduce violence against children (INSPIRE).