An increase in female teen violence has sent shock waves through Australian society. Perhaps we need to provide more education to young people about drinking or re-evaluate our expectations of young Australian women, writes Sarah Kilcoyne, a 28-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from Brisbane, Queensland.
A new social phenomenon is the subject of public concern in Australia.
No longer do Australian girls personify the old adage: “sugar and spice and all things nice,” particularly in light of the increase of violent incidents involving teenage girls.
Across Australia there have been an observable increase in girls settling disputes with their fists. In 1972 approximately 4% of offences in the NSW Children’s Court involved teenage female violence, more recent figures reflect a rate of 30%.
Reports from the Australian institute of Criminology indicate that physical attacks involving girls have risen at the rate of nearly 15 per cent a year since 2005, yet the level of male violence remains comparatively unchanged.
In 2009 alone, 154 violent incidents in schools involving girls aged 10 to 17 were reported to police, compared with just 89 five years ago. During the same period, the number of male attacks rose from 254 to 291.
Whereas fights amongst teenage girls were generally resolved verbally a disturbing trend towards physical violence have left community, school and government leaders puzzled and asking: “Why?”
Many theories have been proposed, however the increase in female violence in the past 10 years has coincided with the rapid intake of girls in social media. Fights are circulated on YouTube and Facebook. Whereas previously only males tended to assert their machismo with physical displays of aggression, recently it has become a mark of honour for a teenage girl to participate in a violent incident and broadcast it on social networking sites.
When attempting to explain the increase in crime rates, authorities repeatedly point to the correlation between the increase in girls engaging in binge drinking and incidents of teenage female violence. Statistics show that young women are drinking more than any previous generation, which leads us to question this additional phenomenon.
Recent research presented by Dr Lucy Burns from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre has indicated that the biggest predictor of teenage drinking behavior is parental drinking behavior. This research found that more than 700,000 Australian children live in households where parents engage in chronic heavy drinking or binge drinking.
Parental modeling of responsible drinking behaviour plays an important part in shaping children’s attitudes to alcohol and reduces the likelihood they will start drinking early or develop binge-drinking behaviours.
While most parents are setting a good example for their children, the research indicates that a considerable number of parents appear to have serious alcohol misuse problems that are like to have a lasting negative impact on their children – both teenage boys and girls. Hence it is understandable that there has an increase in teen binge drinking in Australia and that this has resulted in an increase in teen violence amongst females.
Drinking comprises an important part of Australian culture. However societal norms have long dictated that young females are less likely to participate in binge drinking, aggressive behaviours and criminal activities. This stereotype of the ‘average Australian female teenager’ has evolved into an expectation.
The increase in female teen violence has been particularly shocking to Australian society. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate our expectations of young Australian women. Perhaps we need to provide more education to young people about drinking, particularly young women.
Perhaps we need to provide our young people greater support around the appropriate use of social media. Perhaps we need to start at the smallest unit of society – the family- and ensure that we are providing positive role models for our young people.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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