A new report has found that teens in serious dating relationships are less likely to commit crime than peers who date casually. But before we ask our crime prevention officers to become matchmakers, let’s examine why those relationships may reduce crime. The authors of the study believe the key reason is the connection and sense of responsibility to another person that develops in a committed dating relationship. In these romantic relationships, young people can develop empathy and concern for their significant other’s well-being. They have a sense of generosity and a desire to help and support that other person. Young people are also prompted to think about the effects of their actions on others.
It is these attributes, then, not merely the presence of a girlfriend or boyfriend, that serve as a deterrent for committing crime. The good news for crime prevention practitioners is that these qualities are not just nurtured by committed dating relationships. They can be developed when youth have committed relationships with family members, mentors, teachers, coaches, faith leaders, and other caring adults in their lives. In your work with young people, continue to provide opportunities for youth to connect with others in positive ways through sports, clubs, job training programs, volunteering, or tutoring or mentorship programs. Make a list of what opportunities for youth exist in your community, and keep it handy. You never know when you may be able to match a young person with a great opportunity.