Online abuse between former partners after relationship break ups is common and distressing among UK adults, a new survey suggests.
Lindy Morrison will present her research to the annual conference of the British Psychological Society's Division of Counselling Psychology in Brighton today, Saturday 9 July 2016.
For her study, Morrison interviewed 1612 adults via an online survey about relationship break ups and online behaviour by their former partner. The online actions she asked about ranged from threats to actions against self or others through private or public means.
Some 526 (33 per cent) of respondents reported that they had experience a break up within the last five years. Of those 196 (37 per cent) said they had experienced at least one experience of digital abuse from their former partner, with an average of four abusive behaviours reported. Morrison found that (37 per cent) of respondents who had experienced a break up within the last five years reported being a victim of online abuse from their former partner. On average they listed experiencing four different types of digital abuse. More than half (52 per cent) said they found the experience highly or extremely distressing.
The most common experiences reported were:
· 48 per cent had their ex send or share an online message about them that was extremely nasty;
· 34 per cent had their ex contact their new partner or family and friends online for the purpose of distressing them;
· 28 per cent had their ex threaten to post or send an online message about them that was not true;
· 26 per cent had their ex threaten to share online an something they did not want shared;
· 26 per cent had their ex use digital technology to track or stalk them.
Interestingly, more men than women (40 per cent vs 36 per cent) report experiences of digital abuse after breakups, but there was no statistically significant relationship between gender and the type of behaviours experienced. Similarly, no statistically significant relationship between age or education and the type of behaviours experienced.
Lindy Morrison says: "There is very little research into digital abuse among adults after relationship breakups, particularly into the breadth of experiences that this study includes. Our survey provides strong support for the necessity of further investigation into this issue."
Lindy Morrison is currently recruiting for the next phase of the study, which will interview individuals who have experienced digital abuse to measure the impact of such experiences.
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