WITNESS VIOLENCE BEFORE THE AGE OF 15
Information was obtained from men and women aged 18 years and over in the 2016 PSS.
The PSS asks respondents if they ever saw or heard violence being directed at one parent by another before the age of 15.
In the context of this topic, violence refers to physical assault only. The behaviours identified as physical assault are provided in the methodology section below.
Mother includes step mothers and female guardians or caregivers. Partner includes the respondent’s father/stepfather, and the mother’s boyfriend or same-sex partner.
Father includes step fathers and male guardians or caregivers. Partner includes the respondent’s mother/stepmother, and the father’s girlfriend or same-sex partner.
Respondents are asked whether before the age of 15 they ever saw or heard any of the following being done to their mother by a partner or done to their father by a partner:
- Threw anything that could hurt
- Pushed, grabbed or shoved
- Kicked, bit or hit with a fist
- Hit with something else that could hurt
- Stabbed with a knife
- Shot with a gun
- Any other type of physical assault
Respondents that report having seen or heard any of the above being done to their mother and/or father are then asked how many times they saw or heard these things being done – ‘once or twice’ or ‘more than twice.’
The data items and related output categories for this topic are contained within the SPS Level – Witness violence tab in the Data Item List which is available in Excel spreadsheet format from the Downloads
tab of this product.
Data for this topic has been collected to provide further analytical possibilities around the relationship between seeing and hearing violence as a child towards a parental figure, and characteristics of people who experience violence.
The data can be used to examine:
- The correlation between witnessing violence towards a mother/father by a partner before the age of 15 and later experiences of violence as an adult.
- The estimated number and proportion (rate) of persons that have witnessed violence towards their mother/father by a partner before the age of 15.
The data cannot be used to examine:
- Any characteristics of the violence for which information is not collected, including the behaviour type, severity, and long-term impacts of the violence on the relationship and family.
- The prevalence of parental partner violence, as it only includes incidents of physical assault towards a father/mother by a partner that were witnessed by the respondent before the age of 15. Violence may have occurred but not been witnessed by the respondent, or the violence may have occurred after the respondent turned 15.
- The estimated number and proportion (rate) of persons that have witnessed violence by other adult figures before the age of 15. The PSS only collects information about violence that was directed at one parental figure by another.
Points to be considered when interpreting data for this topic include the following:
COMPARABILITY WITH PREVIOUS SURVEYS
- If the respondent witnessed both their mother and father being violent towards each other on one or more occasions, this is recorded as the respondent having witnessed both violence towards their mother and violence towards their father.
- Contextual information about the violence, such as whether it was unidirectional or bidirectional, retaliatory/defensive, provoked/unprovoked, is not collected in the survey. This information is difficult to capture accurately as respondents may not have full knowledge of the context within which the violence occurred.
- Users should be cautious about using this data to assess the prevalence of inter-parental violence, as the information collected is based on the respondent’s perceptions of the violence as a child and their subsequent recollection of the events.
- The prevalence of witnessing parental abuse before the age of 15 as published in the PSS is likely an underestimate of the true value, as the scope of the survey does not include persons aged less than 18 years.
The 2016 PSS is the first time that questions about witnessing violence towards a mother/father by a partner before the age of 15 have been asked in the series. As such, there is no comparable data from previous editions of the survey.