The NatSCEV II: a Q&A with Dr. Sherry Hamby

The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), a joint effort by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control, first surveyed the incidence and prevalence of children’s exposure to violence in 2008. The survey included 4,500 children and looked at these changes across the spectrum of violence, abuse, and assault including conventional crime, maltreatment and sexual victimization.

This week the NatSCEV II was released as a follow up to the 2008 data. The survey, completed in 2011 with a new cohort of 4,500 children, provides an update of the trends for childhood exposure to violence and abuse victimizations.

The Safe Start Center met with Dr. Sherry Hamby, a Research Professor in the Department of Psychology at Sewanee, the University of the South and part of the team who developed and conducted the NatSCEV to discuss the release of the NatSCEV II.

1. What do you think is some of the most important new data that people should be aware of from this update of the NatSCEV?

NatSCEV 2 is important because this is part of the first ongoing effort to track crime, violence, and abuse against children of all ages. We hope this will be regular surveillance, much like the way we have tracked crimes against adults for many decades, including crimes that are not reported to the police.

NatSCEV 2 also shows that rates of youth victimization are generally holding steady, despite the financial crisis. Although financial strain can have adverse effects on families, overall we did not see a worsening of children’s exposure to violence. Although these rates are still far too high, it is good news they are not getting worse.

2. Are there any areas of the research that you think could be expanded upon in the future?

We are always trying to expand research into new domains–that is the essence of science. In NatSCEV 2, we have some exciting new data, including new approaches to measuring neglect and the criminal justice and social service response to family violence. Look for upcoming papers on these and other topics.

3. How would you like to see this new data used to inform ongoing research and the field of children’s exposure to violence?

If I could wave my magic wand, there are two changes I would most like to see. The first is a more integrated approach to research and practice, instead of siloed programs and institutions that tend to focus on just one problem at a time, such as parental abuse OR bullying. It should be parental abuse AND bullying AND all of the other types of victimization children experience. The second is a more developmental approach where we don’t take programs developed for high school students–or worse, college students–and then with just a few tweaks try to offer essentially the same program to middle or elementary school students. Kids have different needs at different ages.

4. Is there anything else you’d like to add about the updated findings?

This is the third nationally representative U.S. sample that shows the importance of poly-victimization. Poly-victimization is the experiencing of multiple different types of violence, usually in multiple settings by multiple perpetrators. Keeping children safe requires a child-centered approach that includes all the major settings and relationships of a child’s life: family, school, and community.

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