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Peer-on-peer (child-on-child) Abuse

Children can abuse other children. This is generally referred to as peer on peer abuse and can take many forms. This can include (but is not limited to) bullying (including cyberbullying); sexual violence and sexual harassment; physical abuse such as hitting, kicking, shaking, biting, hair pulling, or otherwise causing physical harm; sexting and initiating/hazing type violence and rituals.

Peer-on-peer abuse refers to a broad range of behaviours spanning a number of specific safeguarding issues. Its breadth is exemplified by the definition adopted by Dr C. Firmin, University of Bedfordshire:

Physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse, and coercive control, exercised within young people’s relationships.

Peer on Peer Abuse: Safeguarding Implications of Contextualising Abuse between Young People within Social Fields, Dr C. Firmin, University Beds 2015.

The following statistics highlight the extent of this issue:

  • One in five girls in England suffered physical violence from their boyfriend
  • More than four in ten teenage schoolgirls aged between 13 and 17 in England have experienced sexual coercion.
  • The rates of violence were higher for girls in England than in other countries.
  • Nearly half-48% of girls reported instances of emotional and online abuse from their partners.
  • Over a third of young boys in England admitted watching porn and held negative attitudes towards women

(University of Bristol and University of Central Lancashire, 2015)

Spotting the signs and symptoms

  • absence from school or disengagement from school activities
  • physical injuries
  • mental or emotional health issues
  • becoming withdrawn – lack of self esteem
  • lack of sleep
  • alcohol or substance misuse
  • changes in behaviour
  • inappropriate behaviour for age
  • abusive towards others