Wales

Poverty raises violence risk for girls more than boys

Girl on street generic
Image caption The team studied 700 young people from Cardiff, Swansea and Newport

Living in a deprived area increases the risk of violence "dramatically more" for girls than boys, say researchers.

Cardiff University looked at patients aged 11-17 years who received treatment for violence-related injuries at seven emergency departments in south Wales.

In one deprived area, girls faced a risk of violence six times greater than in more affluent areas.

Researchers said they were concerned that "adverse economic conditions could make the problem even worse".

The study, which focused on former industrial areas, is the latest by a group studying community violence.

Prof Jonathan Shepherd, director of the Violence and Society Research Group, said the report clearly showed poverty raised the risk of violence "dramatically more" for girls than boys.

"The facts linking deprived neighbourhoods to violence are complex and include social cohesion, substance abuse and family stress," he said.

"It is not clear why the risk to girls should be so much more sensitive to deprivation but the reason may be linked to the different ways girls of different backgrounds resolve disputes.

"There is already concern about the violence risk to young women.

"Our findings show that adverse economic conditions could make the problem even worse."

The team studied 700 young people - from Cardiff, Swansea and Newport - who attended casualty departments with injuries from violence.

Overall, boys were more at risk of violence than girls but the risk of injury increased more rapidly for girls than boys as deprivation increased.

The report concluded: "In one deprived area, girls faced a risk of violence six times greater than in more affluent areas.

"Risk-taking behaviour for adolescent boys and girls may be different under different socioeconomic conditions.

Getting drunk

"Violence prevention efforts should focus more on tackling neighbourhood inequalities, particularly those related to material deprivation in adolescent girls."

Prof Shepherd said less was known about alcohol-related violence relating to girls.

"This is speculative but some of this is going to be older teenagers out on the street, and there are anecdotal stories of girls becoming more like boys in their behaviour and engaging in fights and physical assaults," he said.

"However, we don't really know very much about this yet.

"The problem with boys and young males fighting and getting drunk, and alcohol-related violence, is well recognised but there's been a feeling for a while that although boys are the main problem, a minority of girls are also involved. We don't really know enough about this."

Earlier this year, the research group received the Queen's Anniversary Award at Buckingham Palace for its work in understanding and trying to prevent community violence.

Its previous work has included trying to cut drunken crime and injuries in Cardiff city centre using innovative methods such as encouraging pubs and clubs to use plastic glasses.

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