Young People in Scotland Survey 2021: attitudes to violence against women and girls

Pupils across 50 state secondary schools were surveyed on their attitudes towards topics relating to violence against women and girls. The report examines how attitudes have changed since the first publication in 2014 and discusses differences in views across a range of equality characteristics.

Executive summary

Background and methods

This report presents findings from the 2021 Young People in Scotland survey (YPIS) from a sub-set of questions investigating young people's attitudes towards violence against women and girls (VAWG). The YPIS was completed by a representative sample of 2,285 school pupils in 2014[1] and 1,386 school pupils in 2021 aged 11-18 years. Pupils were presented with the same scenarios as in the 2014 survey to examine how attitudes have changed in the intervening seven years. Differences in attitudes across a number of characteristics are also examined, including gender, long-term physical or mental health condition, ethnicity, religious identity and area deprivation.[2]

Key findings

Significant differences across time and within groups are discussed in this report. Full data can be found in the Data Tables (see Supporting Documents). Key findings show that:

  • A vast majority of pupils in 2021 viewed the behaviours described in most scenarios as 'wrong' and 'harmful' and were more likely to do so than pupils in 2014. However, there remains a very small minority of pupils (under 5% for all scenarios excluding those on commercial sexual exploitation) who viewed most behaviours as 'not wrong at all' and causing 'no harm at all'.
  • pupils in 2021 were more likely to view the behaviours described in the majority of scenarios as 'wrong' and 'harmful' compared to pupils in 2014
  • scenarios relating to sexual harassment and stalking were most likely to be viewed 'wrong' and 'harmful' by pupils in 2021 and 2014
    • sharing naked images online without consent was the most likely scenario to be rated as wrong and harmful in both 2021 (94% and 95%, respectively) and 2014 (89% and 91% respectively)
    • wolf-whistling at strangers on the street showed the biggest change over time, where the proportion of pupils who viewed the behaviour as 'wrong' increased to 84% in 2021 from 56% in 2014. The second biggest change over time was in the scenario where a man sent his ex partner unwanted gifts, where the proportion of pupils who thought this behaviour was wrong increased to 62% in 2021 from 36% in 2014
    • the proportion of pupils who viewed domestic abuse within a marriage as wrong also increased in 2021 (79% for both physical abuse and controlling behaviour compared to 69% and 65% respectively in 2014)
  • for most scenarios, girls were more likely to rate the described behaviours as wrong compared to boys
  • aside from differences by religious identity for some scenarios, attitudes did not tend to differ significantly within equality characteristics
  • the prevalence of stereotypical attitudes in pupils reduced between 2021 and 2014
    • a higher proportion of pupils reported they would buy a girl a toy truck without saying anything (79% in 2021, up from 53% in 2014)
    • a higher proportion of pupils would buy a boy a princess doll without saying anything (71% in 2021, up from 40% in 2014)



Back to top