Social work academic secures grant to study intergenerational violence in South Africa

Franziska Meinck from the SPS Social Work team at The University of Edinburgh has received a prestigious European Research Council Starting Grant for a study on the transmission of violence between generations in South Africa.

Social Work lecturer Franziska’s project – Interrupting the intergenerational transmission of violence: a mixed-methods longitudinal study in South Africa – will develop the first known theoretical framework of the intergenerational transmission of violence in Africa.

This work will address a scientific gap with major social and public health implications, and aims to influence policy to tackle interpersonal violence.

Sub-Saharan Africa in general has high rates of violent offending. South Africa has rising levels of violence against women and children, and there are increasingly vocal calls to address this. According to official figures, at least 137 sexual offences are committed per day in South Africa, mainly against women. More than 30 women were killed by their spouses during August 2019.

Three structural factors that are known to amplify risk for experience of violence, perpetration of violence and poor health outcomes are prevalent in South Africa: poverty; over-burdened and under-resourced services; and an HIV epidemic.

The study

There is currently no evidence base to understand the underlying mechanisms of intergenerational transmission of violence as well as the potential for intervention. The five-year study will use a mixed-methods approach to advance existing knowledge, building on her previous work in this area:

  • Franziska will create sub-Saharan Africa’s first three-generational longitudinal study using a sample of 1,800 young people, their children and previous primary caregivers to identify mechanisms of violence transmission through quantitative and qualitative methods.
  • The study will be the first in the developing world to investigate the effect of structural risk factors on violence transmission.
  • Franziska will examine the potential for protective interventions at the policy level.

Franziska (pictured) said: “South Africans deserve the best available evidence to combat violence against women and children. This study gives us the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study how and why violence is transmitted from one generation to the next and what government and policy makers can do to prevent it.”

The award

With more than 3,100 applications for this funding category, 408 early-career researchers from 51 nationalities have been awarded European Research Council grants. These awards aim to help individual scientists and scholars build their own teams and conduct pioneering research across all disciplines. The grants, worth €621 million in total, are part of the EU Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020.

Picture (c) The University of Edinburgh.