Research on violence against children

Violence against children occurs in all societies throughout the world. In 2016 it was estimated that half of all children aged 2-17 years – that is 1 billion children –had experienced emotional, physical or sexual violence in the past year.  All too often this violence is carried out by someone the child knows: family members, teachers, schoolmates, boyfriends and employers.

The consequences of this violence can be profound and long-term, affecting children’s physical, psychological and mental health. Children who experience violence are also more likely to perpetrate violence against others later in life, perpetuating cycles of violence in future generations.

Tthe Child Protection Research Group led by Karen Devries is part of the Gender Violence & Health Centre. This research group includes several Gender Violence & Health Centre members and works with partners in low and middle income countries, to better understand the causes and consequences of violence against children, and to develop and evaluate interventions to reduce this violence.

Much of the work of the Child Protection Research Group is focused on the primary prevention of violence. They have led major studies on the development and evaluation of school-based violence prevention strategies, as well as research into community based prevention programming. They also conduct research with children and adolescents identified as high risk or already receiving child protection services, to study resilience and explore how to improve health outcomes among those who have experienced violence.

The Child Protection Research Group uses a range of epidemiological and social research methods, including randomised controlled trials, cross-sectional and cohort studies, qualitative research, evidence synthesis and modelling. They also undertake methodological research into the ethical conduct of child protection research, how to ensure children and adolescents are able to disclose their experiences to researchers, and how to measure experience and use of different forms of violence in different settings.

The Gender Violence & Health Centre benefits from a close relationship – and the exchange of skills, knowledge and ideas – with the Child Protection Research Group. The Learning Initiative on Norms, Exploitation and Abuse (LINEA) was established within the Gender Violence & Health Centre in 2014. This international multi-pronged project explores how social norms theory can be used to prevent the sexual abuse and exploitation of children and adolescents across the world.

An additional focus of the Gender Violence & Health Centre is the intersections between violence against women and violence against children. Areas of interest include the co-occurrence of violence against women and violence agaisnt children within households, intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence against adolescent girls, the effects that witnessing intimate partner violence have on children’s well-being and future risk of perpetrating/experiencing intimate partner violence, and the potential for violence against women interventions to impact on children’s wellbeing.

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