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Violence against children

Violence against children

More than half the world’s children – one billion children – report having experienced some form of violence in a previous year. Combined with what we know about the negative consequences of violence on children’s health and wellbeing, its impacts on education and the economy, and its long-lasting effects throughout childhood and well into adulthood, it is crucial that evidence-informed actions are taken at all levels to end VAC.

Children’s experiences of violence stay with them through to adulthood, with knock-on effects for the next generation. Recognising this, UNICEF Innocenti examines violence across the life course, paying particular attention to the intersections between different manifestations of violence. Given the clear sex differences in violence levels, patterns, and risk factors, UNICEF Innocenti also promotes a gender transformative approach to its work on violence prevention and response. Such an approach places the causes of gender inequality at the centre of inquiry and works to transform harmful gender roles, norms, and power imbalances that underpin the perpetration and experience of violence.

UNICEF Innocenti conducts and supports evidence generation in relation to VAC in several ways:

  • Synthesizing violence evidence and developing global shared research agendas 
  • Exploring emerging challenges in the violence against children field
  • Strengthening networks and capacities for generating and using evidence 
  • Exploring the impact of COVID-19 on violence

Addressing the intersections between violence against children and violence against women

Violence against children (VAC) and violence against women (VAW) are critical global human rights and public health problems that impede development. Violence and its consequences affect children, adolescents, and women across their lifetimes. Overlapping forms of oppression and discrimination—based on gender, ethnicity, class, migratory or disability status, etc. —amplify vulnerabilities to violence.

Although the fields of VAC and VAW developed separately, evidence highlights multiple intersections between the two, including shared risk factors, common underlying social norms, co-occurrence, intergenerational effects, common and compounding consequences, and adolescence as a vulnerable period and opportunity for prevention of both VAC and VAW. These multiple and complex links suggest that greater collaboration may increase the effectiveness of efforts to prevent and respond to both VAC and VAW.

While evidence on the intersections of VAW and VAC has grown in recent years, important gaps remain, including on how best to coordinate prevention and response efforts so that these meet the needs of children and women. UNICEF Office of Research Innocenti seeks to fill these gaps by producing actionable evidence that will enable UNICEF and other key actors to increase collaboration in ways that respond to the intersections, increase the effectiveness of interventions, and promote the wellbeing of women and children across the life course.

Publications

Children and COVID-19 Research Library Quarterly Digest: October 2021
Publication Publication

Children and COVID-19 Research Library Quarterly Digest: October 2021

Even before COVID-19, over 1 billion children (aged 2–17 years) reported experiencing sexual, physical or emotional violence every year. Across their lifetimes, 1 in 3 women are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner. Violence against children and against women are highly interconnected. Children who witness or experience violence are more likely to perpetrate it or be victimized in adulthood, thus continuing the cycle of violence. This digest highlights 13 newly curated research papers on the topic of COVID-19 and violence against children, selected based on criteria such as relevance to children's rights; a diversity of research methodology; and insights from low- and middle-income countries.
Interventions to Reduce Violence Against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries: Evidence and gap map research brief of phase 1 and 2 findings
Publication Publication

Interventions to Reduce Violence Against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries: Evidence and gap map research brief of phase 1 and 2 findings

Evidence on interventions for reducing violence against children (VAC) has steadily increased over the years. Yet, gaps remain when it comes to research investment priorities and future studies. This brief summarizes the key findings from the Evidence Gap Map on interventions to reduce violence against children in low- and middle-income countries. It includes findings from Phase 1 (English-language publications) and Phase 2 (Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese and Spanish publications). All technical details can be reviewed in the main report.
School-Related Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean: Building an evidence base for stronger schools
Publication Publication

School-Related Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean: Building an evidence base for stronger schools

The prevalence of school-related violence and, in particular, bullying is not a new or isolated phenomenon, nor is it limited to certain schools or countries. Abundant evidence indicates that bullying is widespread and has a negative impact on educational outcomes. Children who are victims of bullying can also be affected emotionally and physically in both the short and long terms. Evidence from low- and middle-income countries on bullying is less extensive when compared to the evidence available on predictors and effects of bullying from high-income countries. However, some findings for the Latin American and Caribbean region seem to suggest a similar picture, with a high prevalence of bullying victimization and association to lower reading scores in different subjects tested. This working paper first uses data from UNESCO’s Third Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study for nationally representative samples of sixth grade students to determine the prevalence of bullying and its association to learning outcomes in 15 countries of the LAC region. It then looks at interventions in countries of the region to mitigate the impacts of violence.
Interventions to Reduce Violence against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries. Pillar 1: Laws, crime and justice
Publication Publication

Interventions to Reduce Violence against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries. Pillar 1: Laws, crime and justice

The production of evidence on interventions for reducing violence against children (VAC) has steadily increased over the years. Yet, gaps exist that need to be addressed when it comes to research investment priorities and future studies. An Evidence Gap Map provides an overview of available evidence on the topic and eight briefs summarize the findings. This brief focuses on ‘Laws, crime and justice’ interventions to reduce violence against children in low- and middle-income countries. All technical details can be reviewed in the main report.
Interventions to Reduce Violence against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries. Pillar 2: Norms and values
Publication Publication

Interventions to Reduce Violence against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries. Pillar 2: Norms and values

The production of evidence on interventions for reducing violence against children (VAC) has steadily increased over the years. Yet, gaps exist that need to be addressed when it comes to research investment priorities and future studies. An Evidence Gap Map provides an overview of available evidence on the topic and eight briefs summarize the findings. This brief focuses on ‘Norms and values’ interventions to reduce violence against children in low- and middle-income countries. All technical details can be reviewed in the main report.
Interventions to Reduce Violence against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries. Pillar 3: Safe environments
Publication Publication

Interventions to Reduce Violence against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries. Pillar 3: Safe environments

The production of evidence on interventions for reducing violence against children (VAC) has steadily increased over the years. Yet, gaps exist that need to be addressed when it comes to research investment priorities and future studies. An Evidence Gap Map provides an overview of available evidence on the topic and eight briefs summarize the findings. This brief focuses on ‘Safe environments’ interventions to reduce violence against children in low- and middle-income countries. All technical details can be reviewed in the main report.
Interventions to Reduce Violence against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries Pillar 4: Parent, child and caregiver support
Publication Publication

Interventions to Reduce Violence against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries Pillar 4: Parent, child and caregiver support

The production of evidence on interventions for reducing violence against children (VAC) has steadily increased over the years. Yet, gaps exist that need to be addressed when it comes to research investment priorities and future studies. An Evidence Gap Map provides an overview of available evidence on the topic and eight briefs summarize the findings. This brief focuses on ‘Parent, child and caregiver support’ interventions to reduce violence against children in low- and middle-income countries. All technical details can be reviewed in the main report.
Interventions to Reduce Violence against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries. Pillar 5: Income and economic strengthening
Publication Publication

Interventions to Reduce Violence against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries. Pillar 5: Income and economic strengthening

The production of evidence on interventions for reducing violence against children (VAC) has steadily increased over the years. Yet, gaps exist that need to be addressed when it comes to research investment priorities and future studies. An Evidence Gap Map provides an overview of available evidence on the topic and eight briefs summarize the findings. This brief focuses on ‘Income and economic strengthening' interventions to reduce violence against children in low- and middle-income countries. All technical details can be reviewed in the main report.
Interventions to Reduce Violence against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries.Pillar 6: Response and Support Services
Publication Publication

Interventions to Reduce Violence against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries.Pillar 6: Response and Support Services

The production of evidence on interventions for reducing violence against children (VAC) has steadily increased over the years. Yet, gaps exist that need to be addressed when it comes to research investment priorities and future studies. An Evidence Gap Map provides an overview of available evidence on the topic and eight briefs summarize the findings. This brief focuses on ‘Response and support services’ interventions to reduce violence against children in low- and middle-income countries. All technical details can be reviewed in the main report.
Interventions to Reduce Violence against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries. Pillar 7: Education and life skills
Publication Publication

Interventions to Reduce Violence against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries. Pillar 7: Education and life skills

The production of evidence on interventions for reducing violence against children (VAC) has steadily increased over the years. Yet, gaps exist that need to be addressed when it comes to research investment priorities and future studies. An Evidence Gap Map provides an overview of available evidence on the topic and eight briefs summarize the findings. This brief focuses on ‘Education and life skills’ interventions to reduce violence against children in low- and middle-income countries. All technical details can be reviewed in the main report.
Interventions to Reduce Violence Against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries: Evidence and Gap Map Research Brief 1 Overview of findings
Publication Publication

Interventions to Reduce Violence Against Children in Low- and Middle-income Countries: Evidence and Gap Map Research Brief 1 Overview of findings

The production of evidence on interventions for reducing violence against children (VAC) has steadily increased over the years. Yet, gaps exist that need to be addressed when it comes to research investment priorities and future studies. This brief summarizes the key findings from the Evidence and Gap Map (EGM) on interventions to reduce violence against children in low- and middle-income countries. All technical details can be reviewed in the main report.

Blogs

Five ways governments are responding to violence against women and children during COVID-19
Blog Blog

Five ways governments are responding to violence against women and children during COVID-19

While the world may have been caught off guard by the size and ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis, it should be prepared to respond to the increased risks to the wellbeing and safety of children and women. Violence against children and violence against women are widespread globally and intrinsically linked, sharing common risk factors and similar adverse and severe consequences. The literature within pandemics may be limited, but we have enough evidence to say unequivocally that related factors—such as confinement, social isolation, increased levels of financial stress, and weak institutional responses—can increase or intensify levels of violence.

Journal Articles

Violence against children during the COVID-19 pandemic
Journal Article Journal Article

Violence against children during the COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has affected children’s risk of violence in their homes, communities and online, and has compromised the ability of child protection systems to promptly detect and respond to cases of violence. However, the need to strengthen violence prevention and response services has received insufficient attention in national and global pandemic response and mitigation strategies. In this paper, we summarize the growing body of evidence on the links between the pandemic and violence against children. Drawing on the World Health Organization’s INSPIRE framework to end violence against children, we illustrate how the pandemic is affecting prevention and response efforts. For each of the seven INSPIRE strategies we identify how responses to the pandemic have changed children’s risk of violence. We offer ideas for how governments, policy-makers, and international and civil society organizations can address violence in the context of a protracted COVID-19 crisis. We conclude by highlighting how the current pandemic offers opportunities to improve existing child protection systems to address violence against children. We suggest enhanced multisectoral coordination across the health, education, law enforcement, housing, child and social protection sectors. Actions need to prioritize the primary prevention of violence and promote the central role of children and adolescents in decision-making and programme design processes. Finally, we stress the continued need for better data and evidence to inform violence prevention and response strategies that can be effective during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 response measures and violence against children
Journal Article Journal Article

COVID-19 response measures and violence against children

In the early stages of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response, children were described as invisible carriers who posed a risk of infection to others. Here we outline how responses to COVID-19 may increase children’s exposure to violence and neglect. We also highlight ongoing efforts to address violence against children and argue for continued action and research on violence prevention within the COVID-19 response.
Modelling the Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Violent Discipline Against Children
Journal Article Journal Article

Modelling the Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Violent Discipline Against Children

The COVID-19 pandemic could increase violence against children at home. However, collecting empirical data on violence is challenging due to ethical, safety, and data quality concerns. This study estimated the anticipated effect of COVID-19 on violent discipline at home using multivariable predictive regression models. Under a “high restrictions” scenario there would be a 35% to 46% increase in violent discipline scores in Nigeria, Mongolia and Suriname, and under a “lower restrictions” scenario there would be between a 4% to 6% increase in violent discipline scores in these countries. Policy makers need to plan for increases in violent discipline during successive waves of lockdowns.

Events

Intersections between Violence Against Children and Women - Prevention and Response
Event Event

Intersections between Violence Against Children and Women - Prevention and Response

19 October 2021 - The second event in the 2021 Solutions Summit Series Together to #ENDviolence series aims to share evidence and foster discussion on intersections between violence against women and violence against children, highlighting synergies opportunities for greater collaboration and opportunities for moving towards implementation to build knowledge and translate it into policy and programs.  SPEAKERSOpening remarks:  Alessandra Guedes, Gender and Development Research Manager, UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, Italy  Presenting evidence:  Clara Alemann, Director of Programs, Promundo, The Hague  Manuela Colombini, Assistant Professor in Health Systems and Policy and Gender-based Violence, and Loraine Bacchus, Associate Professor of Social Science, LSHTM, United Kingdom  Chandré Gould, Senior Research Fellow, and Matodzi Amisi, Senior Research Consultant, Institute for Security Studies, South Africa  Isabelle Pearson, Research Fellow for the Gender Violence & Health Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), United Kingdom, and Heidi Stöckl, Professor of Public Health Evaluation, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany   Panel discussion:  Paul Bukuluki, Associate Professor of Social Work and Medical Anthropology, Makerere University, Uganda  Lina Digolo, Senior Associate, The Prevention Collaborative, Kenya  Lori Heise, Professor of Gender, Violence and Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH), United States    Santi Kusumaningrum, Co-founder and Director, PUSKAPA - Center on Child Protection and Wellbeing at Universitas Indonesia  Tarisai Mchuchu-MacMillan, Executive Director, MOSAIC, South Africa   Closing remarks:  Emily Esplen, Head of Ending Violence Team, FCDO, United Kingdom  
Evidence Matters
Event Event

Evidence Matters

14 September 2021 - This event aims to share information and advance understanding of the growing body of evidence on violence against children (VAC) prevention and response. The event will bring together researchers, practitioners and policymakers, providing a forum to reflect on the current state of the evidence, the role of evidence in driving action to end VAC, and the opportunities that lie ahead.
Gender dimensions of violence against children and adolescents
Event Event

Gender dimensions of violence against children and adolescents

27 May 2021 - The Child Protection and Gender sections at NYHQ and the Office of Research – Innocenti organized an internal webinar on UNICEF’s Strategy Paper on the Gender Dimensions of Violence against Children and Adolescents in which over 200 UNICEF colleagues from regional and country levels participated. The webinar aimed to help participants learn more about the strategy paper and provided an opportunity to share ideas and recommendations for the implementation of priority actions in this area.

Project team

Alessandra Guedes

UNICEF Innocenti

Ramya Subrahmanian

UNICEF Innocenti

Floriza Gennari

UNICEF Innocenti

Manahil Siddiqi

UNICEF Innocenti

Partners

Videos

Related

Innocenti Project(s) 2014-2015:

The best interests principle in intercountry adoption

Innocenti Project(s) 2013:

Determinants, social norms, and violence

ICTs and children

What does the evidence say about the impact of social transfers on child protection outcomes

Innocenti Project(s) 2010-2012:

Adoption and alternative care

Sexual abuse and exploitation of children through the Internet and other information and communication technologies

Social norms, harmful practices and behavioural change

Innocenti Project(s) 2006-2009:

Harmful practices and social norms

PROJECTS ARCHIVE

Conference and meetings

Promoting an understanding of the intersection between violence against women and children

Violence in the home before, during and after COVID-19

Gender and the Evidence Functions in Social Development

Bridging the Gaps: Reviewing the intersections of violence against women and violence against children

Global Frameworks: How do INSPIRE and RESPECT support an intersectional approach?

Blogs

Can we change the way we think about violence against children, adolescents, and women?

Researchers reflect on what inspired them to work on gender

Five ways governments are responding to violence against women and children during COVID-19

Podcasts

Rigour & Vigour: Strengthening evidence on violence against children

Impact of COVID measures on VAW and VAC (in Portuguese)

Journal articles

Intimate partner violence in the Americas: a systematic review and reanalysis of national prevalence estimates

Modelling the Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Violent Discipline Against Children

Interventions for reducing violence against children in low‐ and middle‐income countries: An evidence and gap map

COVID-19 response measures and violence against children

Related Innocenti publications

Rapid Review on Pandemics, Epidemics and Child Protection

Reports

Research on violence against children during the COVID-19 pandemic

Think Pieces

Violence in Times of Coronavirus—The Ugly Truth

Remote data collection on violence against children during COVID-19: A conversation with experts on research priorities, measurement and ethics (Part 2)

Remote data collection on violence against women during COVID-19: A conversation with experts on research priorities, measurement and ethics (Part 1)

Data browser

Interventions for reducing violence against children: An evidence and gap map in low- and middle-income countries

What's new

Joining forces to develop a research agenda on intersections of violence against children and violence against women

Mapping What We Know About Ending Violence Against Children

5 Questions on Research on Violence against Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic

External website

Countering the pandemic of gender-based violence and maltreatment of young people: The Lancet Commission

Global Shared Research Agenda Violence Against Women and Girls

The Prevention Collaborative

WHO Violence against women

WHO Violence and Injury Prevention