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'Standing on my own two feet’: disadvantaged teenagers, intimate partner violence and coercive control

NSPCC research

Standing on my own two feet

September 2011


This research report from the University of Bristol and the NSPCC looks at intimate partner violence in the relationships of disadvantaged young people.

It focuses on the experiences of young people outside mainstream education, young mothers, young offenders, young people living in residential care and young people at risk of sexual exploitation.

The findings are compared with a larger study of young people in mainstream schools which provided a picture of the incidence and impact of teenage partner violence in Great Britain (Barter et al 2009).

The full report is freely available to download and below is a summary of some of the findings.

Download 'Standing on my own two feet’: disadvantaged teenagers, intimate partner violence and coercive control (PDF, 790KB)



Methodology


Interviews were conducted with 44 boys and 38 girls aged between 13 and 18 years who had contact with a range of agencies and organisations working with disadvantaged young people in the south of England.



Findings for disadvantaged young people's experiences of physical violence

  • Over half of the girls and just over a quarter of the boys reported that they had been a victim of physical violence in at least one of their relationships.
  • Girls from disadvantaged backgrounds were almost twice as likely to be recipients of physical partner violence compared to girls in the school study. 

  • A quarter of the girls reported being instigators of physical violence in their relationships, similar to the level found in the school-based survey.

  • Six boys (13%) stated they had used physical violence against their partners, again similar to the school-based survey.

  • More girls in the disadvantage study, compared to the school study, viewed physical partner violence as a normal, if unwanted, aspect of their relationships.


Findings for disadvantaged young people's experiences of emotional violence and control

  • Two-thirds of the girls and a third of the boys reported experiencing emotional violence, most often controlling behaviour.

  • Around half of the girls thought that control was an integral aspect of an intimate relationship.

  • A quarter of both girls and boys reported instigating partner control in their relationships.


Findings for disadvantaged young people's experiences of sexual violence

  • Half of the girls reported they had experienced some form of sexual violence. A quarter stated this involved physical sexual violence. 

  • The disadvantaged girls were more likely to have experienced sexual violence than the girls in the school-based study.

  • None of the girls reported using sexual violence.  Four boys said they may have pressured their girlfriends to have sex. 


Associated factors

  • As with the school based study, more girls than boys experienced intimate violence and girls reported much greater negative impacts on their welfare.

  • Girls with older partners were much more likely to report higher levels of all forms of violence than those with same-age partners, similar to the school-based study.


Vulnerable groups: young mothers

  • One in three young mothers reported experiencing physical violence from their current partner.  Two thirds had experienced physical violence in at least one of their relationships.

  • Two in three reported sexual pressure or force in at least one of their relationships.

  • Nearly all had experienced controlling behaviour, often directly associated with their pregnancy and motherhood. Many stated that the control and violence increased once they were pregnant or when the baby was born.


Vulnerable groups: young people in care

  • Girls in care were especially vulnerable to sexual violence from partners.

  • Young people who had left care and were living alone were particularly vulnerable to violence in their relationships due to isolation from support networks.


Help-seeking behaviour

  • Half the young people were known to have a social worker, although the majority had not told their social worker about the intimate violence.

  • For a minority, talking to their social worker about their relationships was a positive and useful experience.

Download 'Standing on my own two feet’: disadvantaged teenagers, intimate partner violence and coercive control (PDF, 790KB)


Please cite as: Wood, Marsha, Barter, Christine and Berridge, David (2011) 'Standing on my own two feet’: disadvantaged teenagers, intimate partner violence and coercive control.  London: NSPCC.



Further information


Partner exploitation and violence in teenage intimate relationships
Christine Barter, Melanie McCarry, David Berridge and Kathy Evans
NSPCC, 2009
 


Contact the NSPCC Information Service for information about NSPCC research, intimate partner violence or any child protection topic