New data shows U.S. children still being exposed to serious violence and trauma

Two surveys released this week provide new data showing that children in the U.S. are still being exposed to serious levels of violence and childhood trauma.

The National Survey of Children’s Health (NHCS), closely aligned with the Center for Disease Control’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, interviewed almost 100,000 people across the U.S. Surveyors asked participants about nine kinds of adverse experiences including physical abuse and witnessing domestic violence (read more about the scoring here). Almost half of the children were reported to have experienced at least one out of the nine adverse experiences. The survey also found that youth ages 12 -17 had experienced at least two or more types of childhood trauma that may impact their mental and physical health in adulthood.

An update on the National Survey on Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV) mirrored this information. Released Monday, the survey that interviewed more than 4,500 children, conducted by Finkelhor et al 2013[1] found that although the rate of violence against children has decreased since the first survey conducted in 2008, children are still regularly exposed to multiple types of violence and abuse.

Data on the rate of victimization remains unchanged 3 in 5 children are being physically assaulted every year and 10.1% are injured because of assault.  Additionally, more than 13% of the children were harmed by a parent or caregiver in the last year and sometimes that maltreatment included physical abuse. Additionally, 22% witnessed community and family violence. There were some declines in rates of exposure to things such as sibling assault and school bomb threats.

In light of this new data it is vital we remember that although children are often resilient in the face of violence and traumatic events, more must be done to respond to building that resilience. This means using studies like the NHCS and NatSCEV to nurture resilience through the provision of health-based evidence-based interventions and public awareness about the impact of trauma and exposure to violence.

Additionally, these studies highlight the need for continued efforts in collecting more detailed data, the creation of enhanced comprehensive tools to collect that data, and the need to correctly identify these experiences and their related effects.


[1] David Finkelhor, PhD; Heather A. Turner, PhD; Anne Shattuck, MA; Sherry L. Hamby, PhD JAMA Pediatr. 2013;():1-8. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.42.

From research to practice and back again

A variety of public health problems plague our communities and it is critical to understand their causes, consequences, and possible solutions. Two recent examples of research conducted to understand these problems are seen in the findings presented by the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NATSCEV) and The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. According to Acestudy.org, “the ACE Study is an ongoing collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente. Led by Co-principal Investigators Robert F. Anda, MD, MS, and Vincent J. Felitti, MD, the ACE Study…analyz[es] the relationship between multiple categories of childhood trauma (ACEs), and health and behavioral outcomes later in life.” The study finds a strong connection between the effects on children exposed to abuse and negative childhood relationships and the impact on their future behavior and the strength of their coping skills in adulthood. Children who have experienced a certain number of ACES as children, and who may have not received some type of intervention or treatment, may be less successful and productive in society than those who either have fewer or no ACES or who have received an intervention.

Moving from research to practice—that is, making the results of research applicable to another population—can be described as translational research. The website ACE Response provides a great example of how researchers are trying to take their data, describing a public health problem, and moving it towards real applicable use.

This site is the brainchild of Dr. Heather Larkin of the University of Albany and a result of collaboration between the University at Albany School of Social Welfare and Prevent Child Abuse America. It was developed to “bridge the gap between ACE research data and its potential for real world application to prevent ACEs and ACE consequences through policy and program leadership, community development, and direct practice” (ACE website).

Another example of translational research is the Safe Start Initiative. In response to the public health issue of children exposed to violence, “ funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. the goal of the Safe Start Initiative is to broaden the knowledge of and promote community investment in evidence-based strategies for reducing the impact of children’s exposure to violence. For that purpose it provides resources to bridge research and practice around children’s exposure to violence and supports the implementation of evidence based practices in ten demonstration sites around the country (http://www.safestartcenter.org).  

The Safe Start Initiative Center also continues to exemplify it’s response through ongoing development of practical resources for the public:

Research Digest- “The Children Exposed to Violence Research Digest translates current research findings into practical advice for practitioners.”

Evidence Based Guidelines-Contains programs and interventions available for adaptation and use in the field.

Both Safe Start and the ACE Study are demonstrations of the potential that research has to reach beyond simply identifying a public health problem to addressing and maybe even eventually nullifying its effects.

Children exposed to violence is a global epidemic

Tanzania report reveals extent of violence against children

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/aug/09/tanzania-violence-against-children

This post from the UK Guardian Poverty Matters Blog, discusses a new breakthrough study conducted in Tanzania and put out by the Muhimbili University in Dar es Salaam and the CDC. Study findings note that close to 75% of all children had been exposed to some type of violence before reaching adulthood. In addition, the researchers note that reports show that violence exposure in childhood can cause numerous social and emotional problems for the rest of the child’s development.

The outcomes of the Tanzanian study also parallel the findings of the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NATSCEV) and The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study which also reiterate that children coming into contact with violence and trauma may experience long-term detrimental  effects, sometimes in spite of their natural resilience. The NATSCEV in particular notes that, “All too often, however, children who are exposed to violence undergo lasting physical, mental, and emotional harm. They suffer from difficulties with attachment, regressive behavior, anxiety and depression, and aggression and conduct problems. They may be more prone to dating violence, delinquency, further victimization, and involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems” (NATSCEV 2).

Finally, several nations are working to address children’s exposure to violence through studies and legislation. In early 2008, Swaziland was the first African country to conduct a survey of the level of violence exposure of women and children. More recently, in June 2011, in Australia a study was released reiterating that the idea, that children exposed to domestic violence are experiencing a form of child abuse, is becoming a more widely accepted thought. Also, early this month Tanzania committed itself to strengthening laws against violence exposure.

Witnessing or directly experiencing violence, especially children, is becoming a widely recognized problem on the international level. Cultural and emotional barriers exist all over the world which inhibit the recognition and treatment of the effects of this exposure, particularly the mental and emotional health of the survivor. This new study demonstrates the ongoing breakdown of the taboos that surround discussion and treatment of this issue. Such progress is the first step in increasing awareness and supporting prevention, and creating a more trauma-informed global society.

Other Related Studies and Links:

Safe Start Center

Research Studies and Reports

http://www.safestartcenter.org/research/research-studies-reports.php

UNICEF United Republic of Tanzania

http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/tanzania.html

 Violence Against Children: United Nations Secretary-General’s Study

http://www.unviolencestudy.org/

Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Violence Against Children and Young Women in Swaziland

A Brief from UNICEF Swaziland

http://www.unicef.org/swaziland/sz_media_Ten_Things_2.pdf

 

 

Update!

Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence Against Children Praises Tanzania’s work pioneering work in data and research on violence against children!

http://srsg.violenceagainstchildren.org/story/2011-09-20_384

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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