Adolescent family violence

Research priority.

Adolescent violence against family members occurs in a specific context and requires interventions that treat it differently from adult-perpetrated family violence.Given young people’s need for care and protection, services responding to adolescent family violence require a specialist approach.

This research agenda uses the terminology of adolescent family violence to broadly refer to situations where adolescents use violence and/or sexually abusive behaviours in the home, and situations where adolescents use violence in intimate partner relationships. The dynamics relating to adolescent use of violence within the home and adolescent intimate partner violence are different to each other, including the settings in which they can occur. These differences need to be considered when conducting research.

Adolescent family violence is different to adult perpetration of family violence, and adolescents who use family violence require a differentiated response to that of adults. Maturity and development of adolescents varies significantly particularly if impacted by trauma. An adolescent’s development may not represent their chronological age or the expectations of justice and community services. Adolescents who use family violence and/or harmful sexual behaviours may also be victim survivors of adult perpetrated family violence or have other traumatic experiences. Their behaviour may be a response to these experiences.

Research on adolescent family violence needs to be considered in context of the young person’s family situation, life experiences and developmental stage. In recognition of this and as recommended by the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor, research under this priority should consider age groups that overlap with adolescence such as children 8 to 12 years and young people 17 to 25 years.

The below priority research subjects for adolescent family violence focus around deeper understanding regarding the drivers and types of adolescent family violence and effective responses. This includes research that:

  • contributes to our understanding of the prevalence, drivers and protective factors of adolescent family violence in the home and/or in intimate partner relationships including:
    • the extent of any overlap between adolescent violence in the home and adolescent intimate partner violence
    • connections to current and previous trauma, including a young person’s experience as a victim survivor of family violence
    • protective factors associated with prevention and the reduction of violence and that indicate likelihood of positive behaviour change and lessening risk
  • increases our understanding of the impacts of adolescent family violence on the adolescents involved, with consideration of family and peer relationships, social and emotional well-being, disability and mental health, education and life opportunities
  • provides increased insight into the types of violence and the patterns of violent behaviour of adolescents who use violence in the home and/or in intimate partner relationships including:
    • building our understanding of technology-facilitated or online abuse, as well as other emerging methods of abuse, with consideration of the broad range of settings in which this may be used
    • connections between adolescent family violence and harmful sexual behaviours, substance abuse and youth offending
    • types of challenging behaviours that may assist early identification of family violence risk
    • behaviours that may indicate a likelihood of escalation and continuance into their adulthood
  • increases our understanding of access to and effectiveness of responses to adolescent family violence, including research regarding:
    • key settings or circumstances that support early identification and intervention, including education settings, and on mechanisms that may support early disclosure and help seeking from parents or other relevant adults
    • trauma informed therapeutic approaches and/or diversionary responses that consider the adolescent’s environment developmental needs
    • responses to sexual harm, dating and intimate partner violence within settings such as schools and community groups with consideration to impacts on the victim survivor, other young people in the setting and the adolescent using violence

Responding effectively in adolescent family violence situations represents a significant opportunity to facilitate and support change in behaviours of young people and limit use violence into their adulthood. Research under this priority will assist government to intervene early and to tailor supports to the distinct needs of adolescents using violence in the home or intimate partner relationships.