Not all violence is seen as “bad” and some violence is even seen as acceptable or as deserved.
Their views varied according to the description of the violence, but most importantly, according to their understandings of how men and women behave in different circumstances.
Teenagers’ opinions about when intimate-partner violence is acceptable or not can be influenced by the way they perceive men and women and the relationships between them.
Simply telling young people that violence is wrong won’t stop it happening.
Young people drew on fairly traditional ideas about male behavior to justify violence between men.
In other words, violence was accepted because it was being used to enact or reinforce expected gender behavior. Violence by men towards women was seen as “wrong” by the vast majority of young people.
While the knowledge that young people accept violence is becoming well-established, our understanding of why they do is less developed.
My own research with 14 and 15 year olds in the north of England revealed that young people have nuanced understandings of what behavior constitutes violence and when it is unacceptable.
Young people readily and articulately characterize violence as encompassing a range of behavior, including physical, verbal, sexual and emotional abuse.
Pushing, shouting, jealousy, name-calling, rape and child abuse were all named by young people as examples of violent behavior.
Yet when specific scenarios were discussed, young people began to offer justifications.
They viewed it as acceptable and even deserved in some cases, particularly in circumstances where women were not seen to be conforming to expected behavior within relationships, such as when they may have lied to their partner or been unfaithful.
Steve pushes his girlfriend and calls her a “slut.” Violence by women towards men was also seen as unproblematic.