Homes and Families

Focusing on violence within the home, papers commissioned under the first Learning Group will unpack risk factors for, and perpetrators of violence against children (disaggregated by age and gender); ways in which intimate partner violence is associated with violence against children; and how the experience of violence plays out during childhood. In addition, they will synthesize global evidence for prevention at the primary level including, parenting programmes, Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes and primary health care interventions. Accordingly, the Learning Group has been divided into four workstreams Read More...

Workstream 1. Risk factors for, and perpetrators of, violence against children
Led by: Karen Devries, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM); and Naeemah Abrahams, South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)

In order to prevent violence in childhood, it is crucial to understand the risk and protective factors that influence its occurrence. Emerging findings from global data suggest that such risk and protective factors vary by age and gender. That is, both age and gender are key factors affecting the relative risk of exposure to different forms of violence. Several studies have found for instance that boys can be at greater risk than girls of receiving physical punishment from their caregivers. On the other hand, girls are at greater risk than boys of being victims of intimate partner violence (UNICEF 2014). New evidence from Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS) in lower-income countries, including Kenya and Tanzania, similarly reveals some surprises about perpetrators of violence. For example, conventional wisdom holds that the main perpetrators of physical violence against younger school-aged children are their parents; yet recent research in several East African countries shows that violence from school staff is equally, or more, common than violence from parents. Again, while conventional wisdom holds that the main perpetrators of sexual abuse against children are acquaintances or strangers in the community, in many settings sexual violence becomes much more common during adolescence, and the main perpetrators are same aged-peers.

Unfortunately, information on patterns of violence, risk factors and on perpetrators of different forms of violence has mainly come from a limited number of high-income settings. Other countries have provided some small-scale descriptive analyses. Moreover, most literature on violence has concentrated on risk factors at the individual level and those arising in the home and family setting (CP MERG 2014). Less well researched are risk factors at the societal level – such as religious or cultural belief systems, or economic or social policies. The demographic and heath surveys (DHS), for example, collect data on perceptions and attitudes towards wife beating. And the multiple indicator cluster surveys (MICS) provide comparable data on corporal punishment of children. But to comprehend the socio-cultural roots of violence against children, these data need to be linked to the incidence of violence. Overall, the field lacks commonalities among studies of behaviours, risk factors and attitudes that would enable research findings to be compared (CP-MERG 2014).

Workstream 2. Synergies between intimate partner violence and violence against children
Led by: Charlotte Watts, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and UK Government's Department for International Development (DFID); and Alessandra Guedes, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO), New York

The understanding of what is meant by violence is disjointed. Violence sub-types (child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, youth violence and elder abuse) are seen in isolation and there is only tangential recognition of the links between forms of interpersonal violence experienced at different life-stages. Looking across these silos can generate significant lessons. To illustrate, there is limited discussion of the ways in which intimate partner violence is associated with violence against children. However, evidence suggests that there is indeed a clustering of behaviours related to violence against women (VAW) and violence against children (VAC). Greater exploration of the synergies between VAW and VAC can help identify shared risk factors as well as shared principles for prevention programming. Moreover, the definitions and metrics developed for the VAW literature offer lessons for the field of VAC. A shared conceptualisation could strengthen the cohesion of the fields.

Workstream 3. Cohort analysis
Led by: Maureen Samms-Vaughan, University of the West Indies

The cumulative and polyvictimisation experiences of violence against children are best investigated through the use of longitudinal studies. By tracking children over time it is possible to document their experiences of violence and how these experiences relate to other factors at various stages of their childhood. Each stage of childhood presents a special phase in the development of risk and a unique opportunity to target developmentally specific risk factors. Such analysis can help to both identify early risk factors and the best times to intervene using prevention programmes. There are a number of longitudinal cohort studies, with sound methodology, that have been conducted across the world that could add this kind of information to the current knowledge base on violence in childhood. In particular, many longitudinal studies have been conducted in lower and middle income countries (LMICs), where the prevalence of violence against children (e.g.child homicide rates) is reported to be highest. These include the Young Lives Project (Peru, Vietnam, India, Ethiopia), ALSPAC (UK), Birth to Twenty (South Africa), the Brazilian Birth Cohort Studies and the Jamaican Birth Cohort Studies. This workstream will explore the existing information available from these cohort studies.

Workstream 4. Primary Level Interventions
Led by: Maureen Samms-Vaughan, University of the West Indies

This workstream will focus on interventions to reduce violence against children with an emphasis on programmes that are feasible and relevant to, or have been introduced in lower and middle income countries (LMICs), where the reported prevalence of violence against children (e.g. child homicide rates) is highest. A particular focus will be on the early childhood period, where the impact of violence on the developing brain is likely to have long-term effects. The findings from this workstream will identify successful or new and emerging interventions for LMICs and/or will suggest areas for further research in the field of prevention of violence against children.

The Learning Group under the four workstreams has commissioned 14 papers. Specifically, the papers will:

  1. Explore the interplay between risk and protective factors for violence in childhood as experienced in the home and school settings (Lead author: Louise Knight, LSHTM);
  2. Undertake a systematic review of the prevalence of different forms of violence in childhood, disaggregated by age groups, and who the perpetrators are at different ages (Lead author: Karen Devries, LSHTM);
  3. Undertake a systematic review of the distribution of child homicide (by age and perpetrator), with specific attention to infanticide and neonaticide (Lead author: Heidi Stoeckl, LSHTM);
  4. Look at the politics of the gender-age divide in responding to sexual, physical and emotional violence (Lead author: Catherine Maternovska, UNICEF);
  5. Map, strategically, entry points for prevention, through a life-course framework (Lead author: Loraine Bacchus, LSHTM);
  6. Reflect on current policies around mandatory reporting of child maltreatment, and potential service implications to minimise harm (Lead authors: Jill McTavish and Harriet MacMillan, McMaster University);
  7. Focus on the issue of violence against adolescent girls and how this figures in the middle of violence against children and intimate partner violence (Lead author: Mary Ellsberg, Global Women's Institute, George Washington University);
  8. Review existing longitudinal child cohort studies to identify the extent to which violence against children is represented and reported (Lead author: Maureen Samms-Vaughan, University of the West Indies);
  9. Review violence against women in pregnancy from cohort studies in which antenatal data was collected;
  10. Review the prevalence of violence in the early childhood period, and biological and research data on the impact and outcome of such experiences (Lead author: Maureen Samms-Vaughan, University of the West Indies);
  11. Identify markers that predict aggression and violence in a longitudinal study of individuals followed prenatally through age 21 (Lead authors: Michael Lambert, University of North Carolina; and Joseph Murray, University of Oxford);
  12. Review existing parent support programmes, specifically those being undertaken in LMICs (Lead author: Charlene Coore-Desai; University of the West Indies)
  13. Review interventions initiated at the primary health care level to reduce violence against children (Lead author: Deanna Ashley, Violence Prevention Alliance); and
  14. Review a range of programmes designed for the purpose of violence prevention at the early childhood level as well as national early childhood curricula across the world to determine the proportion that include violence prevention by design (Lead author: Sian Williams, ECD Consultant).

In addition, the Learning Group convened a meeting of experts working on VAW and VAC in March 2015 (for more information please consult:

  • 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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