Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Childhood Exposure to Violence Highly Prevalent

In the course of a year, four out of ten children experienced some exposure to violence, crime, or abuse, according to a survey of 4,000 young people published online in JAMA Pediatrics June 29.

The researchers analyzed data from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), which is conducted every three years. The most recent study took place in 2014 and asked children aged 0 to 17 (or their caregivers) about physical assault, sexual assault, child maltreatment, property crime, and witnessing violence.

“More than one-third of all youth (37.3%) experienced a physical assault during the study year, primarily at the hands of siblings and peers,” wrote David Finkelhor, Ph.D., a professor of sociology and director of the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, and colleagues. About 15% experienced maltreatment (physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or custodial interference); 6.5% had something stolen; and 24.5% witnessed family or community violence. Overall, 5% experienced a sexual offense; 16% of girls 14 to 17 reported a sexual offense and 4.6% a sexual assault or sexual abuse.

Most concerning to the authors was the fact that 41% of the young people surveyed had more than one direct experience of violence, crime, or abuse.

“Exposures to violence were interrelated in such a way that experiencing one type increased the likelihood of experiencing other types as well,” concluded Finkelhor and colleagues. “Every combination had a significant risk amplification.”

To learn about the association between childhood maltreatment and cognitive deficits, see the AJP study “Neural Correlates of Error Processing in Young PeopleWith a History of Severe Childhood Abuse: An fMRI Study.”

(Image: Concept Photo/


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