Adolescent family violence in Australia: A national study of prevalence, use of and exposure to violence, and support needs for young people
Principle Chief Investigator: Professor Kate Fitz-Gibbon
Chief Investigators: Professor Silke Meyer (Griffith University), Hayley Boxall (Australian Institute of Criminology) Professor JaneMaree Maher, Professor Steven Roberts, and Dr Kathryn Benier
Research Partners: This project was supported by an Expert Advisory Board, including Commissioners for Children and Young People, and international experts.
Funded by: Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety 2020-2022 Core Grant Round. Link to the ANROWS Project page
About the research project
There is increasing recognition across Australia and internationally of the significant harms and impacts of adolescent family violence (AFV). AFV refers to the use of family violence (including physical, emotional, psychological, verbal, financial and/or sexual abuse) by a young person against their parent, carer, sibling or other family member within the home (Royal Commission into Family Violence, 2016). While research in this area has developed in recent years, there remains significant gaps in current understandings of this form of family violence. Specifically, there is no research within Australia or internationally that examines the prevalence, nature and responses to AFV from the direct perspective of young people.
This project aims to:
- Create a robust prevalence database on the use of family violence by young people within the home, including among diverse community groups,
- Understand the nature of family violence used by young people within the home,
- Examine the degree to which young people who use violence within the home have been exposed to different forms of family violence throughout their childhood, and
- Generate new insights and recommendations into the support needs for young people using family violence.
This project sought to contribute new knowledge to inform improved policy and practices responses to AFV across Australian communities. Using a large-scale survey comprising both quantitative and qualitative components this project significantly advances current understandings of adolescent family violence with the objective to improve community awareness and enhance relevant response and prevention initiatives.
The project findings are relevant to all Australian state and territory jurisdictions.
Research Design: National survey of young people in Australia
This project used a national survey of young Australians aged 16-20 years old. Survey respondents were asked a series of questions about their sociodemographic characteristics, their current living arrangements, and their experiences of:
- witnessing violence between other family members
- being subjected to direct forms of abuse perpetrated by other family members, and their use of violence against other family members.
Survey respondents were also asked to provide detailed information about the nature of their experiences and use of violence, including age of onset, frequency of behaviours and their relationship with the perpetrator/victim (e.g. mother). Respondents were also asked about the impacts of their experiences and use of violence in a range of domains, including their mental and physical health, their connections to culture and their engagement in education.
Overall, 5,021 young people completed the survey.
Research findings and outputs
The findings from this project are presented across two research reports:
- Report 1 (released 7 September 2022) presents the findings related to research aims 1 to 3.
- Report 2 (released 6 October 2022) presents the findings relating to research aim 4.
Report 1: Adolescent family violence in Australia: A national study of prevalence, history of childhood victimisation and impacts
This report is organised into four key sections:
- Section 1 presents the prevalence study by drawing on the quantitative findings on violence used by young people in the home as well as the co-occurrence of experiencing family violence, being a direct target of family violence, and the perpetration of AFV.
- Section 2 presents the study findings specific to five priority adolescent cohorts: First Nations young people, young people from NESBs, young people with disability, gender-diverse young people, and young people with diverse sexual identities.
- Section 3 draws on the qualitative study components to examine young people’s rationale for using family violence in the home.
- Section 4 explores the impacts of adolescent family violence and experiences of family violence on young people in Australia.
The findings from this stage of the research raise a number of implications for policy and practice. The findings highlight the critical need for greater trauma-informed practice when responding to families affected by DFV, including child abuse and AFV. Supporting a young person’s recovery from DFV is an essential strategy to reduce the risk of intergenerational violence, and other short- and long-term impacts of violence on children’s and young people’s lives.
Access a copy of the full report here.
Citation: Fitz-Gibbon, K., Meyer, S., Boxall, H., Maher, J., & Roberts, S. (2022). Adolescent family violence in Australia: A national study of prevalence, history of childhood victimisation and impacts (Research report, 15/2022).
Report 2: Adolescent family violence in Australia: A national study of service and support needs for young people who use family violence
This report is organised into three key sections:
- Section 1 presents the quantitative findings on young people’s experiences of disclosing their use of family violence to informal supports, including family and friends. The section also examines the low rate of police-reported violence among the study sample.
- Section 2 examines who young people cite as the most helpful and least helpful person they disclosed their use of family violence to, and why. This section also presents a qualitative analysis of young people’s reflections on their support needs.
- Section 3 focuses on the reporting behaviours and support needs of young people from priority cohorts. This section presents the research findings specific to First Nations young people, young people from non-English speaking backgrounds, young people with disability, gender-diverse young people and young people with diverse sexual identities, and young people living in regional and rural areas.
The findings from this study are directly relevant to domestic and family violence (DFV) policy and practice in each Australian state and territory. Supporting the recovery needs of young people who have experienced and used DFV is an essential strategy to reduce the risk of intergenerational violence, to minimise the impacts of AFV on other family members, and to ensure the trauma experienced by young Australians as a result of DFV is addressed.
Access a copy of the full report here.
Citation: Fitz-Gibbon, K., Meyer, S., Boxall, H., Maher, J., & Roberts, S. (2022). Adolescent family violence in Australia: A national study of service and support needs for young people who use family violence (Research report, 18/2022). ANROWS.
Related media coverage and contributions
- Fitz-Gibbon, K. and Meyer, S. (2022), ‘Almost 9 in 10 young Australians who use family violence experienced child abuse: new research’, The Conversation, 7 October.
- Price, J. (2022), ‘Children victims, survivors of domestic violence need to be heard and supported to end intergenerational trauma’, The Canberra Times, 7 October.
- Boecker, B. (2022), ‘Australia requires critical support for the needs of young people using adolescent family violence’, Women’s Agenda, 6 October.
- Tuohy, W. (2022). 'New data prompts call to abolish Australia’s ‘ancient’ smacking laws', The Age, 9 September.
- Price, J. (2022). 'New research shows one in five adolescents uses violence against parents'. The Canberra Times, 7 September
- Fitz-Gibbon, K. and Meyer, S. (2022). ‘Almost 9 in 10 young Australians who use family violence experienced child abuse: new research’ The Conversation, 6 September
- 'New research shows link between family and childhood abuse'. ABC News, 8 September. Kate Fitz-Gibbon appeared on ABC News. Watch the segment below: