Intimate partner violence among Australian 18–19 year olds
Snapshot Series – Issue 11
Intimate partner violence is never the victim's fault
This snapshot examines risk and protective factors for intimate partner violence victimisation among Australian adolescents. This helps policy makers and service providers to identify populations that could be at increased risk, so that protective factors can be strengthened. Although the current snapshot focuses on victim-survivors, we emphasise that prevention of intimate partner violence perpetration should be a core focus of policy intervention.
What do we know?
During the teenage years, intimate partner relationships become increasingly important. When navigating these partnerships for the first time, young people are exposed to many new experiences. For some, these ‘new experiences’ can include intimate partner violence as either perpetrators or victims of physical, emotional or sexual violence and abuse (Crooks, Jaffe, Dunlop, Kerry, & Exner-Cortens, 2019). The adolescent and young adult life periods have the highest rates of intimate partner violence across the life span (Johnson, Giordano, Manning, & Longmore, 2015).
Intimate partner violence is a significant violation of the rights and safety of young people and without early intervention, can have lifelong impacts for victim-survivors and perpetrators (Exner-Cortens, 2014). Much of the research to date has focused on identifying risk factors that increase the likelihood of perpetration and/or victimisation among young people; for example, exposure to partner violence in one’s family of origin (Capaldi, Low, Tiberio, & Shortt, 2019; Kaufman-Parks, DeMaris, Giordano, Manning, & Longmore, 2018; Louis & Reyes, 2023). Recently, greater attention has been given to protective factors that reduce the likelihood of intimate partner violence, such as supportive relationships with peers and parents (Hébert et al., 2019).
Peers and parents can serve as key sources of informal support in the context of intimate partner violence victimisation (Greenman & Matsuda, 2016). They can provide emotional support, assist with safety planning, offer information, resources or advocacy and encourage seeking formal help from purpose built organisations (Sylaska & Edwards, 2014). The support of peers and parents is crucial to empowering victim-survivors to seek help and take steps towards safety and healing. Therefore, when addressing the issues of intimate partner violence and abuse among Australian adolescents, it is crucial that we further understand the potentially protective role of peers and parents.
What can we learn?
This snapshot focuses on victim-survivors of intimate partner violence. As such, the core aim of this work is to further understand the scope of intimate partner violence victimisation among Australian 18–19 year olds. Specific focus is given to different forms of intimate partner violence victimisation, and rates of intimate partner violence among adolescent females and males. The potentially protective role of peers and parents against intimate partner violence is considered. The following questions are addressed: (1) How prevalent is intimate partner violence and abuse victimisation among adolescents aged 18–19 years? (2) What are the most common violent or abusive behaviours experienced by adolescents in an intimate relationship? (3) Do supportive friendships in the teen years reduce the risk of intimate partner violence and abuse victimisation at ages 18–19 years? (4) Do supportive relationships with parents in the teen years reduce the risk of intimate partner violence and abuse victimisation at ages 18–19 years?
- Around three in 10 adolescents aged 18–19 years reported at least one experience of intimate partner violence in the previous year.
- Emotional abuse was experienced by one in eight adolescents aged 18–19 years in the previous year.
- Physical violence was experienced by one in 10 adolescents aged 18–19 years in the previous year.
- One in 12 adolescents aged 18–19 years experienced sexual abuse in the previous year. Sexual abuse was more prevalent among females aged 18–19 years than males of the same age.
- Supportive friendships throughout adolescence reduce the risk of later emotional abuse victimisation by 36%.
- High trust and good communication with parents during adolescence reduce the risk of later emotional abuse victimisation by 39% and sexual abuse victimisation by 77%.
Authors: Dr Karlee O’Donnell, Dr Pilar Rioseco, Amanda Vittiglia, Bosco Rowland and Dr Lisa Mundy
Series editors: Dr Tracy Evans-Whipp, Dr Bosco Rowland and Dr Lisa Mundy
Copy editor: Katharine Day
Graphic design: Lisa Carroll
This snapshot benefited from academic contributions from from Dr Antonia Quadara, Dr Rachel Carson, Dr Jennifer Prattley, Dr Neha Swami, Dr Clement Wong, Dr Tracy Evans‑Whipp, Dr Bosco Rowland, Dr Chris Schilling and Dr Sharman Stone.
This research would not have been possible without the invaluable contributions of the Growing Up in Australia children and their families. Website: growingupinaustralia.gov.au Email: [email protected] The study is a partnership between the Department of Social Services and the Australian Institute of Family Studies, and is advised by a consortium of leading Australian academics. The Australian Bureau of Statistics were also partners of the study until 2022, with Roy Morgan joining at this point. Findings and views expressed in this publication are those of the individual authors and may not reflect those of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the Department of Social Services, the Australian Bureau of Statistics or Roy Morgan.
Featured image: © GettyImages/janiecbros
O’Donnell, K., Rioseco, P., Vittiglia, A., Rowland, B., & Mundy, L. (2023). Intimate partner violence among Australian 18–19 year olds. ( Growing Up in Australia Snapshot Series – Issue 11). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.