How do young people who have experienced parental intimate partner abuse make sense of romantic relationships? A qualitative analysis

Hollie Richardson, Juliane Kloess, Asha Patel, Jack Farr

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Background: Approximately one in five children in UK have experienced parental intimate partner abuse (IPA). Research suggests that this is one of the strongest predictors of interpersonal aggression within adult relationships, as well as having significant negative impacts on mental and physical health. Both Attachment Theory (Ainsworth & Bell, 1970; Bowlby, 1969) and Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977) attempt to explain this intergenerational cycle of abuse.

Objective: In line with Birmingham City Council’s Domestic Abuse Prevention Strategy 2016–2020, the present study aimed to qualitatively explore the way in which young people who have experienced parental IPA make sense of romantic relationships.

Participants: Six young people (females = 4, males = 2), aged between 10–13 years (M = 11.16, SD = 1.17), participated in the study.

Method: Semi-structured interviews were conducted, and the data were analysed using Framework Analysis to generate themes both inductively and deductively.

Results: Three superordinate themes were identified, namely ‘Recipe for a Healthy Relationship’, ‘When Things Go Wrong’, and ‘What is a Romantic Relationship?’. Concepts of equality and respect were frequently referenced by participants as part of the interviews. Findings are discussed in relation to practical implications and directions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104942
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Early online date18 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Dr Andy Fox, Dr Darrelle Villa and Dr Nicola Gale for their support. I would also like to thank all of the young people who took part in the research and shared their stories and thoughts with me.


  • Domestic abuse
  • Relationships
  • Young people

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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