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Abuse and Traumas

The unique nature of adolescence means that young people experiencing abuse and trauma in this phase of life may have different needs to younger children or adults.

One in five people experiences at least one form of child abuse before the age of 16

Victimisation and violence 

Experiences of victimisation and violence have significant impacts on wellbeing. This includes bullying, the repeated physical, verbal or symbolic aggression intentionally expressed by one or more peers towards a less powerful victim (Livingstone et al, 2016). Estimates of the extent of bullying vary.

In the Annual Bullying Survey 2018, including 13,879 young people at secondary schools and colleges, the majority of whom were 12-15 year olds, a quarter (25%) of young people reported that they had experienced bullying in the last 12 months (Ditch the Label, 2020). Of these, nearly a third reported that bullying was happening every week. Chart 8.7 shows that the most frequently reported types of bullying were social exclusion, verbal bullying and intimidation. Ditch the Label (2020) also reported that almost half of 12-18 year olds who were being bullied believed they were being bullied because of how they looked.

The most common types of bullying are social and verbal

Bullying includes cyberbullying, the deliberate aggression expressed by peers through digital (online or mobile) technologies (Livingstone et al, 2016). Just over a quarter (27%) of the Ditch the Label respondents reported cyberbullying. Research has shown a large overlap between on-line and off-line bullying, with most victims experiencing both, and the most common form of bullying is still in person, face-to-face (Haddon and Livingstone, 2014).

Estimates of bullying by Ofcom are lower but reflect the same overlap between physical persecution and other forms. Children aged 12-15 are just as likely to say they have experienced bullying face-to-face (16%) as on social media (14%), or through messaging apps or texts (12%) (Ofcom 2019).

Approximately 5% of 13-15 year olds think their friends carry weaponsWhether or not young people feel generally safe in their local environment is also sometimes used as an index of wellbeing. In the Exeter Schools Health Unit’s most recent survey, 1 in five young people aged 8-15 said that safety after dark in their area was ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ (Balding and Regis, 2020). Approximately one in 20 thought their friends were carrying weapons.

Chart 8.8 shows rate of intimate partner violence against 15-24 year old women in a range of OECD European countries. Rates range from 3 to 16 percent.


Rates of intimate partner violence against 15-24-year-old women are similar across OECD European countries, with some outliers

All data correct as of 1st November 2021