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Dating and relationship violence a significant issue among young people in Wales, study finds

26 November 2019

Couple after a fight

Dating and relationship violence (DRV), including both physical and emotional violence, is a significant issue among young people in Wales, academics say.

Cardiff University researchers analysed survey data from nearly 75,000 students aged 11-16, from 193 schools in Wales.

Of young people with dating experience, 17% of boys and 12% of girls said that they had experienced physical violence by a romantic partner at least once. When it came to emotional violence, 28% of girls who had been in a relationship said they had experienced victimisation, compared to 20% of boys.

Analysis of the overlap between victimisation and perpetration found that physical violence tended to go in one direction, with most victims not reporting perpetration. Emotional violence by contrast was commonly more reciprocal, perhaps reflecting a tendency for more mutual emotional conflict within many young people’s relationships.

Dr Honor Young, of the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), said: “Dating and relationship violence is an issue that is affecting a large number of young people in Wales. We found that young people’s experience of dating and relationship violence did not differ across different social class groups, which suggests that it is affecting a broad range of young people across Wales. The odds of becoming a victim or perpetrator of DRV, or both, increase as children, particularly girls, get older.”

Honor Young

One unexpected finding is that fewer boys reported being perpetrators of violence compared to girls. This needs to be investigated further but may relate to lower social tolerance of violence perpetration by men, which could have had some impact on the answers that young people gave.

Dr Honor YoungSenior Lecturer

Data for the study were from the 2017 School Health Research Network (SHRN) Student Health and Wellbeing survey. The survey, which is completed individually by participants and is the largest of its kind, asks students a range of questions relating to their health and wellbeing, including their relationship experiences.

There is emerging evidence that early exposure to DRV is related to later substance misuse, sexually transmitted infections and teenage pregnancy, eating disorders and mental health problems.

The study also showed that students from single or step-parent homes, those in care and certain ethnic minority groups had increased odds of experiencing or committing DRV.

Dr Young added: “The findings suggest that early intervention is needed so that the number of young people experiencing DRV does not increase into adulthood.”

Dating and relationship violence victimization and perpetration among 11-16 year olds in Wales: a cross-sectional analysis of the School Health Research Network (SHRN) survey, is available to view here.

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