Happy Valentine’s Day!

What does Valentine’s Day mean to you? Is it a celebration of love, a hallmark holiday, or both?

As a child, this holiday can take the form of a classroom activity where you put Valentine’s Day grams with chocolates and hand them out to each child in the class. As we get older we can celebrate this holiday with friends (Pal-entine’s/Gal-entine’s day), family, and/or a significant other by sharing gifts or other displays of affection. Harvard University conducted a study on how our social connections have the power to not only give us pleasure, but to influence our long-term health in ways just as powerful as exercise, diet, and sleep.  One study, which examined data from more than 309,000 people, found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% — an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than the risk from obesity and physical inactivity.[1]

Relationships can be healthy or unhealthy. Healthy relationships aren’t perfect, but they are fun and make you feel good about yourself. Unhealthy relationships can cause discomfort and even mental and physical harm. Unfortunately, the statistics on unhealthy relationships are alarmingly high. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency found that 1 of 3 girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a partner. The long-lasting effects of being in unhealthy relationships as a youth lead to higher risks of substance abuse and other risky behaviors.

In some adaptations of the CANS, there are specific items geared towards those transitioning to adulthood or Transition Age Youth (TAY); that is, items to be completed for young people typically ages 16-21. These items include Job Functioning, Independent Living Skills, and Educational Attainment. In the Life Functioning Domain of the Illinois Medicaid-CANS, the Intimate Relationships item is used to rate the youth’s current status in terms of romantic/intimate relationships. Some questions to consider for this item include:

0. Adaptive partner relationship.  Youth has a strong, positive, partner relationship.

1. Mostly adaptive partner relationship.  Youth has a generally positive partner relationship.

2. Limited adaptive partner relationship.  Youth is currently not involved in any partner relationship.

3. Significant difficulties with partner relationships.  Youth is currently involved in a negative, unhealthy relationship.

While a helpful item, many users struggle with rating it:  How do you rate this item if the youth is not currently involved in an intimate relationship? Remember that rating items is a collaborative process that involves the young person’s input. If the youth is not in an intimate relationship and is not interested in being in one, then this is not a need and can be rated ‘0’. If, however, the youth is not in an intimate relationship but IS interested in having one, then the item can be rated as a need.

This item is just as much about perspective as it is about physical and emotional health and one’s on-going development. In healthy, intimate relationships, a person can fully develop to his or her potential,, while unhealthy intimate relationships can cause physical and emotional,  suffering, and become barriers to one’s development.  It is important to understand how a person functions within relationships, in order to fully understand one’s sense of self and how he or she uses that self understanding in relating to others – be it friendships, family bonds, and interacting with others as part of everyday life.  Relationships can be the context that motivates individuals to organize their sense of identity and meaning, and achieve a sense of coherence and continuity.

On this Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate the good people in our lives, regardless of whether they are romantic partners, family or friends. Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us on the TCOM team!

[1] Harvard Health Publications. (2010, December). The Health Benefits of Strong Relationships. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from

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