Bulletin Reports 

Children and Violence

Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey discusses the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Conducted between January and May 2008, it measured the past-year and lifetime exposure to violence for children age 17 and younger across several major categories: conventional crime, child maltreatment, victimization by peers and siblings, sexual victimization, witnessing and indirect victimization (including exposure to community violence and family violence), school violence and threats, and Internet victimization. This survey is the first comprehensive attempt to measure children’s exposure to violence in the home, school, and community across all age groups from birth to age 17, as well as the cumulative exposure to violence over the child’s lifetime.

The survey confirms that most children are exposed to violence in their daily lives. More than 60 percent of those surveyed were exposed to violence within the past year, either directly or indirectly (as a witness to a violent act; by learning of a violent act against a family member, neighbor, or close friend; or from a threat against their home or school). Nearly one-half of the children and adolescents surveyed were assaulted at least once in the past year, and more than 1 in 10 were injured in an assault; 1 in 4 were children and violence victims of robbery, vandalism, or theft; 1 in 10 suffered from child maltreatment, including physical and emotional abuse, neglect, or a family abduction; and 1 in 16 were victimized sexually. More than 1 in 4 witnessed a violent act, and nearly 1 in 10 saw one family member assault another. Multiple victimizations were common: more than one-third experienced two or more direct victimizations in the previous year, more than 1 in 10 experienced five or more direct victimizations in the previous year, and more than 1 in 75 experienced 10 or more direct victimizations in the previous year.

Reports of lifetime exposure to violence were generally about one-third to one-half higher than reports from the past year, although the difference tended to be greater for less frequent and more severe types of victimization. For example, more than three times as many respondents reported being victims of a kidnapping over their lifetimes as did in the past year. Nearly 7 in 8 children who reported being exposed to violence during their lifetimes also reported being exposed to violence within the past year, which indicated that these children were at ongoing risk of violent victimization. The reports of lifetime exposure also indicated how certain types of exposure change and accumulate as a child grows up.

To obtain the complete report (NCJ 227744), access the National Criminal Justice Reference Service’s website at http://www.ncjrs.gov.