Safe Young Lives

Spotlight report on young people and domestic abuse

This Spotlight report focuses on young people aged 13 to 17 who experience domestic abuse in an intimate partner relationship or who demonstrate harmful behaviours towards a family member. The report is part of our Spotlight series which looks at how some victims and survivors of domestic abuse are hidden from services and/or have unmet needs and proposes recommendations for both practitioners and policymakers.

Safe Young Lives uses SafeLives’ Insights national datasets and national Marac dataset to help demonstrate the extent of domestic abuse that young people suffer. Combined, this is the largest dataset in the UK on domestic abuse. The report also draws on wider evidence to help understand the experiences of young people and the support they need. This includes evidence from practitioners, experts and, most importantly, the views of young survivors and their parents.

  • 95%

    of young victims of intimate partner violence were female

  • 49%

    of boys thought hitting a partner would be 'okay'

    in at least one of twelve scenarios they were presented with

  • 33%

    of girls thought hitting a partner would be 'okay'

    in at least one of twelve scenarios they were presented with

  • Only 45%

    of young victims were known to children's social services

Key findings

  • Young victims of domestic abuse in intimate partner relationships
    Young people experience the highest rates of domestic violence of any age group but are not as visible to services. The abuse is no less severe than for older victims but young people have vulnerabilities which are unique to their age group. They are also experiencing abuse in new ways, through technology and social media.
  • Young people who harm family members
    Adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA) is common and under-reported. For some young people, the experience of domestic abuse includes causing harm to those closest to them, including parents, siblings and other family members.
  • The influence of childhood experiences
    For many young people, experiences of domestic abuse begin in the childhood home. Domestic abuse at adolescence is likely to follow other adverse childhood experiences.
  • The response to domestic abuse for young people
    Adult domestic abuse support is not equipped to meet the needs of young people. There is also a lack of specialist services responding to young people who harm their partners. Those best placed to spot abuse need to know how to respond and parents need more options to help their children and protect themselves.
  • Prevention and early intervention
    Many young people do not recognise abusive behaviour. Evidence suggests that a better understanding of healthy relationships could help both the abusive young person and their partner. In addition to responding to domestic abuse, education can also play a preventative role


When I was 15 I got into a relationship that would change my life…One day I was on the phone to a male friend, and my partner decided that it wasn’t okay for me to do that. That was the first time he hit me. After that it kind of just becomes a blur.

Chantelle, young survivor

Further research and reading

Blue background, graphic of a stack of papers.

Young people: research briefings

Evidence and briefings from our Young People's Programme in 2014 - exploring the intersection between young people experiencing domestic abuse and child sexual exploitation (CSE), poor mental health, online abuse, substance misuse, and parenthood. 

In Plain Sight

Children who are exposed to domestic abuse experience a range of harm. Our policy report looks at the impact and makes recommendations for change.