Brooke, Julia (2011) Young Mothers’ Experiences of Relationship Abuse. In: Understanding the Social World Conference 2011, 13th - 15th July 2011, University of Huddersfield. (Unpublished)

Historically, domestic abuse has been constructed as an adult issue, however over recent years there has been increasing awareness that abuse can also occur in adolescent relationships. A recent study of over one thousand 13-17 year olds (Barter et al, 2009) found that at least 75% had experienced some form of relationship abuse, with a quarter of the girls reporting physical assaults. These experiences were often found to have negatively affected girls’ health and wellbeing.

Young mothers have been found to be at particular risk of experiencing relationship abuse, which has been shown to have a detrimental effect on the long-term health and development both of themselves and their children (Goddard et al, 2005). In the UK despite ongoing efforts to reduce the teenage pregnancy rate, potential associations between relationship abuse and teenage pregnancy have received little consideration (Coy et al, 2010). In addition, a lack of research with young mothers who have experienced relationship abuse has contributed to a lack of understanding about their needs.

Maintaining a feminist perspective and through the use of narrative interviews, both during pregnancy and once the baby has been born, this research will enable young mothers’ who have experienced relationship abuse to tell their stories. The study will contribute to a better understanding of young mothers’ experiences, perceptions and support needs and have implications for developing improved professional and agency responses.

This paper will provide an overview of current knowledge regarding young mothers’ experiences of relationship abuse along with an exploration of some of the definitional, methodological and ethical challenges that arise when conducting research in this area.

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