Most American children exposed to violence on a daily basis: researchers

Most American children exposed to violence on a daily basis: researchers

American researchers have concluded in groundbreaking research that most American children are exposed to violence in their daily lives. More than 60% of the children surveyed were exposed to violence in the past year, either directly or indirectly (i.e., as a witness to a violent act; by learning of a violent act against a family member, neighbor, or close friend; or from a threat against their home or school).

The research, funded by the US Department of Justice, also found:

  • Nearly one-half of the children and adolescents surveyed (46.3 percent) were assaulted at least once in the past year;
  • More than 1 in 10 (10.2 percent) were injured in an assault;
  • 1 in 4 (24.6 percent) were victims of robbery, vandalism, or theft;
  • 1 in 10 (10.2 percent) suffered from child maltreatment (including physical and emotional abuse, neglect, or a family abduction);
  • 1 in 16 (6.1 percent) were victimized sexually;
  • More than 1 in 4 (25.3 percent) witnessed a violent act;
  • Nearly 1 in 10 (9.8 percent) saw one family member assault another;
  • More than one-third (38.7 percent) experienced 2 or more direct victimizations in the previous year;
  • More than 1 in 10 (10.9 percent) experienced 5 or more direct victimizations in the previous year;
  • More than 1 in 75 (1.4 percent) experienced 10 or more direct victimizations in the previous year;
  • Nearly seven in eight children (86.6 percent) who reported being exposed to violence during their lifetimes also reported being exposed to violence within the past year, which indicated that these children were at ongoing risk of violent victimization;
  • Nearly one in five girls ages 14 to 17 (18.7 percent) had been the victim of a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault; and
  • More than one-third of all 14- to 17-year-olds had seen a parent assaulted.

The report states:

Too little is known about the numbers of children exposed to violence. Although
several studies have attempted to measure children’s exposure to violence, these
estimates have varied greatly and have often measured only a subset of that
exposure. Not only does this partial measurement fail to reveal the full extent
of violence against children, it also fails to account fully for the multiple
victimizations that many children experience; the co-occurrence of certain types
of violence (for example, intimate partner violence and child maltreatment or
neglect within a household); the extent to which exposure to one type of
violence may make a child more vulnerable to other types of violence and
victimization; and the cumulative effects of repeated exposure to violence as
both a direct victim and a witness. Basic epidemiological data are important to
determine the extent of the public health problem, the need for services, and a
baseline for evaluating progress.

The report comments on the effects of exposure of children to violence:

Children react to exposure to violence in different ways, and many children show
remarkable resilience. All too often, however, children who are exposed to
violence undergo lasting physical, mental, and emotional harm. They suffer from
difficulties with attachment, regressive behavior, anxiety and depression, and
aggression and conduct problems. They may be more prone to dating violence,
delinquency, further victimization, and involvement with the child welfare and
juvenile justice systems. Moreover, being exposed to violence may impair a
child’s capacity for partnering and parenting later in life, continuing the
cycle of violence into the next generation.

For the full report, click here [pdf].

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