Young People’s Attitudes Towards Violence, Sex and Relationships: A Survey and Focus Group Study

January 1, 1997

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This study investigated young people’s attitudes towards violence, sex and relationships drawing upon a large-scale survey of 2,039 young people (mostly aged between 14 and 21), and ten in-depth focus groups. The study findings highlight the extent to which violence against women is tolerated by young people and documents widespread acceptance of forced sex and physical violence among young women, and to a greater extent, among young men.

Main Findings:

  1. The research documented a widespread acceptance among young people of forced sex and physical violence against women – for example one in five young men and one in ten young women responded positively when asked if various forms of abuse/violence against women ‘are ever OK’.
  2. One in eight young men believed it would be ‘OK’ to hit a woman if she were ‘nagging’.
  3. One in ten young men thought it would be acceptable to hit a woman if she were his wife and 8% thought the same if she were his girlfriend.
  4. Young men were much more tolerant than young women of behaviour such as forcing a woman to have sex – one in five young men considered it acceptable to force a woman to have sex if she were his wife, while a further 15% were unsure.
  5. With regard to responses to all the questions about hitting a woman or forcing her to have sex under a wide range of circumstances, it was found that one in two young men and one in three young women considered such behaviour to be acceptable in at least one of the identified circumstances.
  6. 81% of young men and 68% of young women thought that women may provoke violence by ‘flirting’.
  7. The above findings were further contextualised and defined by the focus group discussions which highlighted the importance of group norms and peer pressure and the attitudes and actions of adults and the mass media in influencing the behaviour of young people in their relationships.
  8. Young men and women commented positively on the opportunity to discuss sex, relationships and violence during the research process and welcomed the idea of a campaign against violence that involves young people.

See Research Report: Young People’s Attitudes Towards Violence, Sex and Relationships: A Survey and Focus Group Study

Grant Holder: CWASU and The Media Research Unit, Department of Sociology, Glasgow University

Sponsor: The Zero Tolerance Charitable Trust, Glasgow City Council, Manchester City Council and Fife Council