One in three young people have struggled with unhealthy relationships


Toronto, ON – August 31, 2022 – In time for the return to school, a national poll conducted by the Canadian Women’s Foundation reveals the top challenges parents and caregivers believe their children aged nine to 19 have faced over the past two years:

  • Low self-esteem and lack of confidence (56%)
  • Bullying (49%)
  • Isolation and lack of belonging (47%)
  • Problems resolving conflicts (46%)
  • Mental health concerns (45%)

One in three (33%) say their children have struggled with unhealthy relationships over the past two years: That’s 37% for parents and caregivers of boys and 27% for parents and caregivers of girls and gender-diverse youth.

The findings underscore a need for healthy relationship education, programming, and mentorship for young people of all genders.

“What children learn today lasts a lifetime,” says Paulette Senior, President and CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “With urgent news stories about the prevalence of sexual violence and our need to challenge bullying and toxic masculinity, it’s clear that education around consent, healthy relationships, and conflict resolution isn’t only for girls.”

Recent years have seen spikes in gender-based violence like intimate partner abuse and femicide. Sexual assault is the only violent crime in Canada that is not on a long-term decline.

Parents and caregivers are concerned about their children’s experience of discrimination based on race (28%), sexual orientation (25%), and gender identity (25%). They also identified key issues that their children are not well-equipped to handle:

  • Sexual harassment in public (28%) and at school (25%)
  • Mental health concerns (23%)
  • Discrimination based on their sexual orientation (23%)

“Community-based programs fill these learning gaps over the country,” says Senior. “In many ways, young people can feel safer to say what’s on their minds in these programs than they can at home or at school. And these programs offer peer-led experiential opportunities, as well as culturally relevant activities for Indigenous, newcomer, and other underserved girls and youth.” But 38% of parents and caregivers say their children lack access to programs and services that meet their unique needs. “We simply can’t wait another year to better support child and youth development and ensure safety, rights, and well-being for all young people.”

Leading up to the International Day of the Girl on October 11, the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s Got Your Back campaign will spotlight community-based Girls’ Empowerment and Teen Healthy Relationship programs it funds in every province and territory, flagging a need for expanded child and youth support in Canada.|

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The Canadian Women’s Foundation is a national leader in the movement for gender equality in Canada. Through funding, research, advocacy, and knowledge sharing, we work to achieve systemic change. We support women, girls, and gender-diverse people to move out of violence, out of poverty, and into confidence and leadership. Since 1991, our partners and donors have contributed more than $150 million to fund over 2,500 life-transforming programs throughout the country.

Editor’s Note: When referring to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, please use the full name. Please do not abbreviate or use acronyms.



These are the findings from a study released by Maru Public Opinion undertaken, crafted by its research consultancy Maru/Matchbox and undertaken by its sample and data collection experts at Maru/Blue July 21-22, 2022. This research was conducted among 1,512 Canadian adults, out of which 272 participants were  parents and/or caregivers with children aged 9-19. Participants were recruited through the Maru Voice Canada panel. The results were weighted to match the Canadian population, according to Census data. The detailed findings are at: Maru Public Opinion Canada.