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Young people’s perceptions of the ‘Love Hurts’ programme: Is theatre an effective means of addressing teenage relationship abuse?

McElwee, Jessica and Fox, Claire (2020) Young people’s perceptions of the ‘Love Hurts’ programme: Is theatre an effective means of addressing teenage relationship abuse? British Educational Research Journal. ISSN 0141-1926

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Abstract

Domestic abuse prevention education programmes have been found to be effective in bringing about attitudinal and behavioural change. However, there is limited research on theatre-based interventions developed in the United Kingdom. This study aimed to assess pupils’ responses to a theatre production called ‘Love Hurts’. A mixed methods approach, which incorporated an online survey and focus groups, was used to understand the pupils’ perceptions of the play. The survey was completed by 294 pupils aged 11-19 years in five schools. Four focus groups were conducted in two of the schools involved. The pupils were generally very positive about the play, girls more so than boys. One of the strengths was that the young people reported being able to relate to the situations, and they found the use of theatre very engaging. They seemed to respond well to the use of a positive male role in the play, but reported that more could be done to highlight that women can be abusive too. Another theme was around the issue of trust, with some young people reporting feeling cautious about entering relationships following the play. The findings suggest that the young people responded well to the messages conveyed and felt that theatre was an effective means of addressing the issue. However, care is needed as to how to address the issues of gender and trust.

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