Adolescents exposed to family and domestic violence during childhood are at much greater risk of being hospitalised for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy terminations, according to new research led by The University of Western Australia.
“Early intervention is essential to ensure adolescents are supported and equipped with preventative strategies.”
-Dr Carol Orr
Researchers from UWA’s School of Population and Global Health and The University of South Australia used police and hospital records in WA to analyse the health outcomes of thousands of adolescents born between 1987 and 2010 to mothers who were victims of family and domestic violence.
The findings, published today in BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, showed that young people exposed to domestic violence were at a 49 per cent greater risk of being hospitalised by an STI than non-exposed children. Exposed children were also 34 per cent more likely to be hospitalised for a pregnancy termination.
It is conservatively estimated that 11 per cent of Australian children are exposed to family and domestic violence.
Lead researcher Dr Carol Orr said the findings provided new insights into the relationship between family and domestic violence and adolescent sexual health and highlighted the need for early intervention and support programs.
“We already knew that children exposed to domestic violence are more likely to engage in risky sexual practices and are more likely to become pregnant during adolescence, however there is a dearth of research on the risk of STIs and pregnancy terminations among this group,” Dr Orr said.
“STIs have the potential to cause infertility and long-term health issues, so early intervention is essential to ensure adolescents are supported and equipped with preventative strategies.
“It’s also important that when young people are hospitalised with STIs that clinicians consider trauma history and enquire about home stressors such as family and domestic violence.”
Dr Orr said further research was needed to better understand the link between exposure to family and domestic violence and pregnancy termination, including the dynamics of dating relationships.