Background

Violence against children is germinal to a wide range of behavioral, psychological, social, and health related problems at every level of society. Children are exposed to violence in many different ways, including maltreatment by caregivers, criminal victimization by strangers, exposure to natural and human-generated disasters, and wartime brutalization.

Violent behavior is diverse, and can take the forms of damaging physical, sexual, and emotional aggression, all of which are potentiated by contextual factors such as chronic poverty, neglect, and criminality. Human violence against children is generated from parents and caregivers, peers, neighborhoods, institutions, nation-states, and terrorist groups.

Children who are at the highest risk of severe victimization are simultaneously exposed to many different types of violence, and usually experience violence as a chronic condition of growing up. Of particular concern is the growing phenomenon of child victims who themselves become perpetrators of violent acts, such as children who subsequently physically abuse their partners and children, bullied children who perpetrate school shootings, and wartime refugee children who are recruited and trained as brutal child soldiers.

Additionally, violence against children is often influenced and even caused by other significant social problems, such as substance misuse, racism, and poverty. Despite intensive scientific and political attention to these problems, progress in understanding and effectively addressing violence against children has been profoundly limited.