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Save the Children and UNICEF discuss ‘Understanding Pathways’ to prevent violence

30 March 2017 - 31 March 2017
understanding pathways of VAC 2 The siblings of Alexis, 18, in his room at home in Omoa, Honduras. Alexis, his mother, and five siblings live in extreme poverty, in a wood and corrugated iron shack built on a slope that turns into mud every time it rains.

(4 April 2017) As the first stage of the Multi-Country Study of the Drivers of Violence Affecting Children draws to a close an important consultation has been organized by UNICEF Innocenti and Save the Children to review current findings and chart the next stage of the study. The Understanding Pathways workshop in Bangkok, Thailand brings together leading researchers from the four focus countries of the Multi-Country Study (Italy, Peru, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe); additional research partners from Cambodia, Indonesia, Tanzania, Paraguay, the Philippines and Serbia (where ‘Research to Policy and Practice Processes,’ informed by the Innocenti study have been launched); UNICEF country level child protection specialists and key government and research partners who have gained a better understanding what drives childhood violence and what can be done about it.

The first stage of the Multi-Country Study focused on grounding the research through systematic literature reviews and secondary data analysis to understand what is currently known about sexual, physical and emotional violence affecting children in their homes, schools and communities. Each country underwent an ‘action analysis’ process to prioritize one entry point (homes, schools or communities) in which to reduce a specific type of violence (emotional, physical or sexual). The study's second stage will now focus on testing potential or current interventions.

Save the Children has recently launched a new strategic initiative: Violence is No Longer Tolerated, and has expressed interest in collaborating on the second stage of the study, with focus on identifying effective country strategies to protect children from violence. Save the Children programme specialists from each of the ten participating countries are now engaged in inter-agency learning and action planning to ensure that global work to end violence benefits from the complementary initiatives.

UNICEF and Save the Children child protection staff in a working session at the Understanding Pathways workshop on the drivers of violence affecting children, Bangkok, Thailand (April 2017)

"When researchers meet practitioners and work together to question evidence and move it into action, social change is inevitable," said Mary Catherine Maternowska, research lead on violence affecting children at UNICEF Innocenti. "Partnerships have formed, collaborations and co-discovery continues. The process brings out the best of both agencies."

Save the Children’s contribution within the framework of the Multi-Country Study includes strengthening the child participation component of the research methodology, to ensure children’s voice and perspectives are incorporated in an ethical manner. Save the Children will offer existing materials, experience, knowledge and learning around Pathways to Change.

Through co-learning and co-creation processes, UNICEF and Save the Children technical specialists, as well as external experts, will lead country teams through a process of developing theoretical and practical frameworks to guide future intervention research. The overall goal is to strengthen the evidence base for effective, adaptive violence prevention programming. Opportunities for collaborating in the next stage of research and testing of interventions will also be planned.

Working session on the first day of the Understanding Pathways workshop on the drivers of violence affecting children, Bangkok, Thailand (April 2017)

By the end of the Understanding Pathways workshop country teams will have developed: 1) a draft theory of change for priority areas for violence affecting children and related program logic, and 2) a draft applied research concept note needed for improved intervention design and testing to occur during the next phase. Interventions proposed will build on evidence of what works to prevent violence among, especially vulnerable groups. 

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Complexity, prevalence of violence affecting children revealed in multi-country study
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Complexity, prevalence of violence affecting children revealed in multi-country study

(8 February 2017) New findings by UNICEF Innocenti and its partners present a clearer picture of the main drivers of physical, sexual and emotional violence affecting children across four countries. The  Cross Country Snapshot of Findings from UNICEF Innocenti’s   studyon the drivers of violence affecting children examines the way individual characteristics, relationships, communities, institutions and structural factors increase or reduce a child’s experience of violence in Italy, Peru, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe. An important priority of the study is increased understanding of effective national strategies for preventing child violence. It is being conducted in collaboration with the  University of Edinburgh, University of Oxford's  Young Lives longitudinal study, UNICEF country offices, key ministries, national researchers and practitioners.     “There is increasing data indicating that violence is prevalent across societies but if we can’t understand what’s behind that violence and what’s driving it, then we’ll never solve the problem of preventing it. This is research that intends to drive change,” said  Catherine Maternowska, UNICEF Innocenti child protection specialist and lead researcher on the project. “The study never forgets that these four countries have historical, political and social stories and events that shape everyday life. When you analyse the risk factors in the context of a country’s ‘social ecology,’ you start to understand the complexity of this phenomena.”  “We wanted to use existing national data—as an alternative model to large scale and often expensive surveys. A key aspect of the study is building on existing data: it has already been collected, and has so much more to tell us if we ask the right questions!” The process involved a systematic literature review of academic papers, a secondary analysis of 10 national data sets and a preliminary mapping of each country’s violence intervention strategies. More than 500 research studies were reviewed. Emerging findings Sexual violence  – Girls are much more likely to experience sexual violence than boys; however, boys are also affected yet they are far less likely to be asked about sexual violence in surveys. Lifetime prevalence of any sexual violence among girls is 18 per cent in Zimbabwe, 13 per cent in Peru and 6 per cent in Italy. Physical violence  – Boys and girls experience comparable rates of physical violence at home or in school. Estimates from primary analyses of national data sets show that approximately 1 in 2 children in Peru have been beaten with objects such as belts and sticks at home and 3 in 5 boys and half of girls in Zimbabwe experience physical violence at the hands of a parent or adult prior to the age of 18. Based on Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys roughly 2 in 3 children aged 1 – 14 years have experienced violent discipline in the home in Viet Nam and Zimbabwe in the previous month.  Emotional violence  – Although more difficult to define and measure, the Cross Country Snapshot also tracks the prevalence of emotional violence affecting children. In Peru, more than 2 in 3 children (69 per cent) reported experiencing peer to peer psychological violence in their lives. In Viet Nam almost 60 per cent of children under 14 years have witnessed psychological aggression in the home. In Zimbabwe more than a third of children report experiencing emotional violence.  In Italy, 19 per cent of children assisted by social services had witnessed domestic violence. Emotional violence can be perpetrated by various actors: parents, peers, siblings and teachers. Violence at home According to nationally representative surveys from the four countries, violent discipline in the home is widespread across the countries and contributes to a heightened risk of violence at school, the community and online. From two thirds to three quarters of children report violent discipline in the home. In Peru 3 out of 4 parents reported using verbal punishment as a main form of punishment. In Italy, two thirds of parents reported using corporal punishment against their child during the last month. In Viet Nam and Zimbabwe 69 per cent and 63 per cent respectively, of children aged 1 – 14 years reported witnessing violent discipline in the last month. Violent schools Schools are found to be a significant setting where children are exposed to multiple forms of violence from corporal punishment to bullying. Data from the Young Lives longitudinal study conducted by the University of Oxford show that between 20 and 30 per cent of children in Peru and Viet Nam respectively were beaten by their teachers. Corporal punishment at age 8 is linked to lower math scores in Peru and lower self-esteem in Viet Nam at age 15. Fluid and shifting influences Violence emerges as a complex socio-economic phenomenon – not merely as an interaction between child and individual – but rather as a fluid and shifting influence in children’s lives as they move between the home, the school and the community interacting with an array of peers and adults. The findings make it difficult to compare violence affecting children in various national contexts due to the differences in cultural, historical and political realities.    Understanding, for example, what drives violence against a 7-year old boy may be quite different than that which affects a 14-year old girl, with different societal and individual consequences. The role of power impacts heavily on this process and can shift in both positive and negative ways as children grow-up. Research shows that violent behaviour is passed through generations and is learned through childhood. Addressing unequal power dynamics in the home, school and community is central to effective violence prevention strategies. Mapping the ecology of violence Researchers and policy makers are seldom able to fully address the complex risk factors and drivers of violence in children’s lives. The new findings help to establish a socio ecological framework to better map the factors that increase or decrease a child’s likelihood of experiencing violence. Major drivers of violence at the structural level include rapid national transition accompanied by economic fluctuation, instability, poverty and migration both within and between countries which may increase the risk of sexual and physical exploitation and abuse. Children’s vulnerabilities to violence also arise as a result of institutional drivers including ineffective child protection systems, weak school governance and harmful cultural and social norms. Community risk factors identified in the study include harmful cultural practices and social norms and in some cases the code of silence that exists around violence. Interpersonal risk factors take into account family structures and contexts including marital status, parents’ histories of abuse, education and family stress among others. Individual risk factors include vulnerabilities due to age, ethnicity and disability and beliefs about gender roles and the acceptability of violence. Violence affecting children encompasses a spectrum of forms, including physical, sexual and emotional maltreatment which comprise the three main priorities of the Innocenti multi country study. Local ownership of research A fundamental aspect of the Multi-Country Study is local institutional ownership of data and policy outcomes. In several cases important national legislation and policy advocacy resulted only after participating governments and research partners took ‘ownership’ of the data on violence affecting children, providing a vital aspect of understanding what drives violence against children in their countries. “It was a human-centred, bottom-up [data gathering] approach exhaustively compiled and built on existing research led by national actors,” said Maternowska. “That is crucial because national teams analysed  and interpreted their data- there was no exporting the data or telling them what a number means.” “We localized the research process. Countries took ownership and in doing so are also now taking responsibility for solving the challenge of violence.” 
Understanding child experiences boosts effort to end violence
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Understanding child experiences boosts effort to end violence

(21 November 2016) Physical and emotional violence are pervasive and largely accepted aspects of children’s lives, according to a set of recently published studies. Interviews with children and their caregivers over nearly a decade in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Viet Nam provide researchers with important new insights on the way violence impacts children as they grow up. The new findings have been published in the “Understanding Children’s Experiences of Violence” series of working papers produced by the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti in collaboration with the University of Oxford’s Young Lives research initiative. The papers comprise the latest evidence to emerge from UNICEF’s Multi-Country Study on the Drivers of Violence Affecting Children.“Violence is pervasive in children’s lives – impacting them in the family, in schools, and in the community – and this research, based on interviews with the same children over many years, paints a clearer picture of the intergenerational transmission of violence,” said Catherine Maternowska, UNICEF Innocenti’s lead researcher on the project.“Understanding how violence affects children as they move through childhood, adolescence and later into young adulthood, gives us important insights into change in a child’s capacities and in the environments where they live, sleep, study and play”. The new papers reveal unique aspects of the way children from four very different corners of the world perceive and cope with violence. A number of issues also appear to be in common among them as well. Violence is clearly linked to economic shocks in the family, such as death, illness or loss of a job. In Viet Nam children perceived economic hardship as the cause of increased tension and stress leading to more exposure to violence at home. In Peru, children were more often exposed to exploitative child labor and instances of neglect when families had to cope with loss of economic resources.In all four countries, parents and children both articulated the perception that violence is an acceptable or even necessary tool for shaping good behaviour and values. In Peru, children subjected to violence expect to raise their children the same way. In Ethiopia, violence was viewed as an acceptable way to instill a culture of hard work and discipline. In India, violence was articulated by some as an acceptable way to deal with ‘transgressions’ committed by young women and girls. At the same time, children express how they suffer under these often-unbearable conditions. Violence, according to children across all four countries, is a normal consequence of failing to meet responsibilities in the home and at school—linking two important spheres in children’s lives. In India almost all children experienced corporal punishment in school. In Viet Nam, children feared being beaten by their parents for poor grades on school exams. In Ethiopia, violence was often experienced as a result of failing to perform agricultural chores properly. Experiences of violence change depending on age, gender and setting. In India girls and young women commonly experience sexual harassment referred to as ‘eve-teasing’ in public ranging from verbal taunts to groping. In Ethiopia, boys are far more likely to report instances of physical violence at home while girls reported insults and harassment by boys in the community. In Viet Nam, the strong social preference for boy children put women and girls at greater risk of violence.Qualitative research conducted by Young Lives addressed children’s well-being, their experiences of transitions (for example, changing schools), and their time-use and daily experiences. Multiple qualitative research methods were used including one-to-one interviews, group discussions and creative activities (such as drawings of a child ‘doing well’ or ’doing badly’), and body mapping carried out in 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2014.In Ethiopia between 130 and 150 interviews were conducted with children and caregivers in each round. In India some 400 children and caregivers were interviewed in each round. In Viet Nam 72 children and caregivers were interviewed in each round. In Peru 100 children and caregivers participated in the interviews.A highly important component of the Understanding Children’s Experiences of Violence series is the documentation of children’s narratives over time, as children enter into adulthood. In some cases children participating in the study were married by the time of the most recent round of interviews was completed. These narratives provide powerful new documentation which can help direct more effective interventions. Ravi’s story from the India qualitative interviews provides a good example. As a small child, Ravi witnessed his father beating his mother and he attempted to intervene. He also went on to try and protect his sister from her violent husband. At age 13 Ravi told researchers: “When my mum and dad fight I feel very bad. When my dad beats my mum we try and stop him.” But as a married man, aged 21, Ravi is resorting to violence against his own wife. “When she tells lies she gets a beating. Every day. She won’t keep quiet. I get angry. If I go out somewhere, she will say: ‘Why did you take so long?’ ”According to Catherine Maternowska: “Stories like Ravi’s provide powerful data which helps us understand how and when we can effectively intervene to prevent violence. At age 12, when Ravi was very opposed to violence, a supportive violence prevention programme addressing the consolidation of gender norms before they set in could have possibly helped change his desire to use violence later in life.”The Multi-Country Study on the Drivers of Violence Affecting Children undertakes research primarily in Italy, Peru, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe examining the way structural, institutional, community and individual factors interact to affect violence in children’s lives, with a particular focus on the risks and experiences of violence by gender and age. Complementing the study, a number of papers have been produced using the longitudinal quantitative and qualitative data produced by the Young Lives research initiative. Young Lives is an international study of childhood poverty, initiated in 2000, which has followed 12,000 children in Ethiopia, India (in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana), Peru and Viet Nam. This set of papers aims to understand various aspects of children’s experiences of violence, and the impacts of violence on children’s lives over time, across different settings.Read more on the Multi Country Study on the Drivers of Violence Affecting Children. Listen to a recent interview with UNICEF Innocenti researcher, Catherine Maternowska on the drivers of violence against children or read her latest blog reflecting on the way research is changing the way Peru is fighting violence against children.