Youth Intimate Partner Violence in Sweden : Prevalence and Young People’s Experiences of Violence and Abuse in Romantic Relationships

Sammanfattning: Swedish studies on intimate partner violence (IPV) among young people are virtually non-existent, and the European research field on this phenomenon has not been specifically overviewed. This thesis aims to review European research on youth IPV, investigate the extent and characteristics of youth IPV victimization in a sample of Swedish high school students, and explore the dynamics of this victimization.The dissertation consists of four sub-studies employing different kinds of methods and using different sets of data. Analyses are underpinned by a rather extensive theoretical framework, permitting an examination of youth IPV from different perspectives and angles.Study I gives an overview of existing European research, pointing out trends and challenges within the field and providing a frame of reference for the Swedish study. One conclusion of this overview is that an intersectional approach is needed when researching violence among youth, and that gender, especially, is a key variable to explore in research on youth IPV.Study II presents IPV prevalence rates in a regional sample of Swedish young people. Drawing upon survey data, the study shows that over half of participating youth reported experiences of some form of IPV, and that girls experience more repeated IPV compared to boys. Furthermore, the study places youth IPV in a physical context, suggesting that it takes place in different arenas, such as the parents’ house, the partner’s house, and at school.Study III uses data consisting of “teller-focused” interviews with 18 IPV victimized youth (aged 17-23) in Sweden, and illustrates the dynamics of IPV victimization, establishing it as a social phenomenon and emphasizing the agency of young people in the midst of abusive relationships. It shows varying responses (including a lack of response) from three different actors: parents, school, and young people themselves, all from the young person’s perspective. Overall, the data show that youth-specific factors (e.g. parental dependency, attending school) have a meaningful bearing on both responses and resilience to IPV.Lastly, study IV draws upon data consisting of “teller-focused” interviews with 18 IPV victimized youth (aged 17-23) in Sweden, and shows how young people’s abusive relationships come to an end. It shows that the ending process for youth may be different than for adults, since youth-specific factors create unique barriers (e.g. the desire to be a girlfriend) and bridges (e.g. parental responsibilities) for young people seeking to end abusive relationships.Overall, this dissertation shows that many Swedish youth experience violence within a romantic intimate relationship, and that such violence, many times, is repeated and severe. The results indicate a gendered dimension to youth IPV—compared to boys, girls report more repeated violence and also describe how gendered norms affect their victimization. Moreover, regarding the physical context of youth IPV, the results show that this social problem takes place in arenas where adults dwell and how they can respond. Hence, it is not possible for the adult world to dismiss youth IPV as something undetectable.In sum, this dissertation shows that IPV does happen “when you’re young too.” Thus, it seems apparent that a wide-ranging response is called for: one that involves parents, schools, social workers, and policy makers alike. Only then will youth IPV as a social problem receive the attention it needs and deserves.