Violence in Childhood

Every day, millions of boys and girls around the world experience severe forms of violence – physical, emotional or sexual. Violence of any kind is unacceptable, but it is particularly reprehensible when directed against helpless and powerless children. Children exposed to violence not only suffer immediate injury, but also live in fear, and are unable to realise their full potential. The Ending Violence in Childhood: Global Report 2017 published by Know Violence in Childhood: Global Learning Initiative in September 2017 makes a strong case for the prevention of childhood violence.

An essential starting point for State action is robust and regular measurement of violence indicators, which in turn can help to track progress over time. Ideally, such measurement should cover children across different age groups and record all forms of violence across different settings. The requirement of countries to report on progress towards the SDGs provides an excellent opportunity for governments to start strengthening their data gathering systems on violence.

Reliable data on inter-personal violence in childhood are difficult to obtain. This is partly because such violence takes place within relationships and is hidden by a strong culture of silence. Fearing potential stigma or retribution, many children and women are reluctant to report abuse. There are also significant gaps in the availability of comparable international data.

To address the problem of data gaps, Know Violence in Childhood has estimated missing values of prevalence rates for six indicators of violence against children: child homicide rate, corporal punishment at home, violence among peers (an indicator each on bullying and physical fights) and violence experienced by adolescent girls (physical violence since age 15 and forced sexual violence including in childhood). Drawing on these estimated indicators, the Ending Violence in Childhood: Global Report 2017 provides global estimates of the burden of interpersonal violence experienced by children.

In 2015, at least three out of four of the world’s children – 1.7 billion – had experienced interpersonal violence in a previous year. This figure includes:

Child Homicide


100,000 children who were victims of homicide

Corporal Punishment


1.3 billion boys and girls aged 1-14 who had experienced corporal punishment at home

Physical Fights


123 million children aged 13-15 who were involved in physical fights


Sexual Violence:
Adolescent girls


18 million adolescent girls aged 15–19 who had ever experienced sexual abuse



138 million children aged 13-15 who had experienced bullying

Physical Violence:
Adolescent girls


55 million adolescent girls aged 15–19 who had experienced physical violence since age 15


Boys and girls who have been exposed to violence are not only at immediate risk, they can also face lifelong problems – with impairments to their physical and mental health. And their harmful experiences can trigger a series of problems, including cognitive impairments, anxiety and depressive disorders, substance abuse, impaired work performance and aggressive behaviour.

Violence in childhood has many causes. It is often rooted in deep and underlying societal problems – in inequality, insecurity and injustice. And it persists through generations. Children, who have been abused, are themselves more likely to become perpetrators – either as children or as adults. The aim should be to break these vicious inter-generational cycles.

For this and other information see the Report and other outputs of the Initiative.

About Know Violence in Childhood

Know Violence in Childhood (2014-2018) was established as a time-bound global learning Initiativeby individuals from multilateral institutions, non-governmental organisations and funding agencies concerned about the global impact of violence in childhood and the lack of investment in effective violence prevention strategies.

It builds on three central premises:

  • 1

    Violence is preventable. Strategies for prevention can help build better lives for boys and girls — optimising their well-being and their development to adulthood.

  • 2

    Sound evidence and effective communication should inform policy and programme strategies — which will help global, regional and national policy-makers focus attention on this major international issue and take effective action.

  • 3

    Countries can learn from each other — exchanging knowledge across national boundaries and transferring experience between different contexts.


Over nearly three years, the Initiative has gathered evidence on violence in childhood and on the linkages with health, education and poverty. This body of work presents the case for greater global investment in violence-prevention and recommendsessential public actions for ending violence in childhood.

Know Violence in Childhood has gathered global support – forging partnerships with leading organisations and international experts from the fields of child protection, health, education, justice, international development, human rights and economics.

The Initiative has also brought together a diverse, multi-sectoral group of researchers who prepared 44 research papers covering three key settings where children experience violence: in the home; in schools or institutions; and within the wider community and in public spaces.

The aim of the Initiative has been to promote learning across boundaries – national, sectoral and disciplinary. This should inspire global advocacy and action – and encourage greater investment in violence prevention.

Know Violence in Childhood acts on three broad fronts: building evidence and showcasing solutions; engaging leadership; and energising national, regional and global advocacy.



Investigating the underlying causes and consequences of violence in childhood and gathering information on effective methods of prevention.

Every year, as many as 1.7 billion children around the world experience severe forms of physical, emotional and sexual violence. This not only harms children directly, it also adds to inequality. Children who experience violence at home or at school are more likely to be absent from school or to drop out and thus, are deprived of a full, high-quality education. There are also major financial costs. Each year up to 8% of global GDP is spent on repairing the damage caused by childhood violence yet most governments fail to invest in tackling the root cause. As a result, they are failing to protect their investments in areas such as education, health and justice.



Convening and engaging leaders across academia, policy-making, politics and practice

The Initiative is in a strong position to mobilise global political attention. It is shaped and guided by two authoritative co-chairs. Baroness Vivien Stern isa member of the UK House of Lords who is actively and internationally engaged in the fields of diplomacy, politics, human rights and the rule of law. Dr AK Shiva Kumar is a human development economist who is deeply connected with rights-based development and social policy in many parts of the developing world.



Advocating for solutions to end violence in childhood

The Initiative is poised to take advantage of the increasing global momentum for preventing violence in childhood. This includes the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which provide an opportunity to generate greater awareness and political commitment, and create new entry points for action.

  • KVIC Partners - Public Health Foundation of India
  • KVIC Partners -University of Delaware
  • KVIC Partners - FXB
Supported by
  • Unicef
  • Benard Van Leer Foundation
  • Ikea Foundation
  • American Jewish world Service
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Oak Foundation
  • End Violence
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