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Abuse in teenage and young person relationships

In considering the impact of domestic abuse in parental relationships on young people, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that domestic abuse can be experienced within young people’s own intimate relationships.

Research from the University of Bristol and the NSPCC shows that 25% of girls aged 13-17, and 17% of boys, have experienced the use of physical force (pushing, slapping, hitting or being held down) in a relationship; more severe physical force (punching, strangling, being beaten up or being hit with an object) had been experienced by 11% of girls and 4% of boys. 72% of girls and 51% of boys had experienced emotional violence (most commonly “being made fun of” and “constantly being checked up on”). Overwhelmingly, young people keep these incidents within their peer group, talking to friends rather than to parents or carers or to other adults.

New technologies are typically central as a means by which young people communicate with their peers, and this is often used against them, for example, to keep surveillance of where they are and what they are doing and by monitoring their social media accounts.

In general, young people want advice that is confidential, so that they can take time to form a relationship with the professional and explore their options. Some don’t talk to anyone because they are concerned that either their experiences won’t be taken seriously or that, at the other end of the spectrum, information will be passed on to other professionals and agencies without their agreement.

Young carers

Children and young people who look after a parent or relative who is ill, physically or mentally disabled, drug dependant or an alcoholic are known as young carers. The full extent of young caring in the UK is hard to gauge as many young carers go unidentified and some are fearful of intrusion or unwelcome intervention into family life.  Young carers may be particularly vulnerable as they may not be receiving the level or quality of parenting that would normally be expected due to the limited capacities of their own carer; and may be spending a considerable period of their time caring, leaving limited time and energy for other activities.

Tools and guidance for supporting young carers

Further reading and resources

  • Healthy and unhealthy relationships page from Childline brings together advice and guidance, along with videos to help young people consider what’s right in relationships.
  • Disrespect NoBody – PSHE Association, 2018. This detailed and important resource includes discussion guides and sessions plans aimed at preventing abuse in teenage relationships.
  • Guidance for multi-agency forums: Supporting 16 and 17 year olds – SafeLives, 2014. This guidance highlights the findings of the National MARAC Scrutiny Panel review of cases of 16 and 17 year old victims who’d been referred to MARAC, and includes key recommendations.
  • Healthy Relationship Workbook – The Arc of Spokane, 2013. This workbook is designed to assist someone with a learning disability or difficulty to learn about healthy relationships, identify and recognise abuse and know who to contact for help.
  • Relationship safety resource for key stage 4-5 – PSHE Association with the Alice Ruggles Trust. This resource includes three lesson plans and accompanying materials to promote awareness of unhealthy relationship behaviours and stalking.
  • The Teen Relationship Workbook – Kerry Moles, 2001. This workbook is for professionals working with young people to prevent or end relationship abuse.
  • Teenage Relationship Abuse: A teacher’s guide to violence and abuse in teenage relationships – Home Office and Women’s Aid.
  • Can You See Me? – Rural Media. This short film is aimed at young people aged 15 and 16 to explore the issue of domestic abuse in teenage relationships.

SafeLives Practice Briefings for Professionals:

We need your help to continue our work reducing the risk of domestic abuse. Find out more about how you can get involved!