Compulsory domestic abuse prevention lessons needed in schools

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Posted on 10 April 2013

Research supports the call for domestic abuse prevention education to be compulsory in schools

The findings of a groundbreaking study of 13 to 14-year-olds in 13 Staffordshire schools which revealed worrying levels of domestic abuse among young people are presented today, Thursday 11 April 2013, at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society in Harrogate.

As part of the research, the effectiveness of a schools-based programme called ‘Relationships without Fear’ was assessed.

Dr Claire Fox, from Keele University, who led this phase of the research said: “We found that domestic abuse prevention education can be effective in changing girls’ and boys’ attitudes towards domestic abuse and encouraging more of them to seek help.”

In phase one of the study, 1,203 Year 9 pupils, based in 13 schools in Staffordshire, were recruited from both schools that had received ‘Relationships without Fear’ (‘intervention schools’) and those which had not (‘control schools’). While campaigns such as ‘This is Abuse’ can help raise awareness, Dr Claire Fox argues that young people need time and space to discuss the issues.

Dr Claire Fox said the research found that over half of the 1,203 Year 9 pupils had some direct experiences of domestic abuse, whether as victims, witnesses, or perpetrators. While on a date, just less than half of both girls and boys had been abused; a quarter reported carrying out abusive behaviour. Follow up focus groups revealed a range complicated attitudes towards domestic abuse by children, which went some way to explain the figures.

The problems, argues the Economics and Social Research Council funded study, can be addressed, by preventative education before the age of 13.



Notes for editors:


  • The Economic and Social Research Council funded study was carried out by researchers at the Universities of Manchester, Keele and Bath. For more details about the study visit
  • The project was carried out in 3 phases, and each phase has a corresponding report. All three are available at
  • Full poster paper title: ‘Is domestic abuse prevention education effective?’
  • The British Psychological Society is the representative body for psychology and psychologists in the UK. We are responsible for the development, promotion and application of psychology for the public good. For more information please visit