Three in ten older teens have experienced intimate partner violence

Content type
Media release

October 2023


Karlee O'Donnell, Pilar Rioseco, Amanda Vittiglia, Bosco Rowland, Lisa Mundy

Almost three in ten 18-19 year olds have experienced intimate partner violence in the past year, according to a national study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

The research is based on data from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), which has been tracking 10,000 children since 2004.

In the 12 months before being surveyed, 25% of 18-19 year olds experienced emotional abuse, 12% experienced physical violence, and 8% experienced sexual abuse in their intimate relationships. A total of 29% experienced at least one form of intimate partner violence.

The research also revealed that teens having healthy relationships with parents and friends at 16-17 years played a critical role in reducing the likelihood of being a victim of intimate partner violence at 18-19 years.

Specifically, high trust and good communication with parents during adolescence reduced emotional abuse victimisation by 39% and sexual abuse victimisation by 77%.

If a teen had strong, supportive friendships throughout adolescence, the likelihood of being a victim of intimate partner violence was reduced by 36%.

Senior Research Officer at AIFS, Dr Karlee O’Donnell, said while the rates are alarming, the research points to the importance of strong relationships with parents and peers when it comes to harm reduction.

'As a parent, one of the most important things to do is to build a strong, trusting relationship with your child when they’re young, and keep nurturing that all the way through secondary school,' said Dr O’Donnell.

Dr O’Donnell said encouraging supportive friendships is also important, as friends might observe unhealthy behaviours that could otherwise go unnoticed.

'Our research clearly shows that social support systems are key in reducing intimate partner violence. Parents and friends can help teens understand what healthy and respectful relationships look like,' Dr O’Donnell said.

Emotional abuse is characterised by a pattern of actions or behaviours that are intended to manipulate, control, isolate or intimidate another person.

Physical violence includes the use of physical force with the intent to cause injury or harm, while sexual violence involves sexual acts that are committed or attempted without the explicit informed consent of the other person and/or despite their refusal.

See the full report: Intimate partner violence among Australian 18–19 year olds.

LSAC is the largest and longest study of Australian children. In partnership with the Department of Social Services, AIFS has been tracking 10,000 babies and toddlers since 2004, asking them about key aspects of life, including health, relationships, work, education and lifestyle.

News stories

Media contact     
Kate O'Connor      
Phone: 0499 860 257  
Email: kate.o'[email protected]