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.


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.

Women Making an Impact on CEV: Sherry Hamby

This month the Safe Start Center is honoring National Women’s History Month by profiling women who have made an impact on the issue of children’s exposure to violence.

hamby2012Dr. Sherry Hamby is currently Research Professor in the Department of Psychology at Sewanee, the University of the South and part of the team who developed and conducted the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV). A licensed clinical psychologist, Hamby is founding editor of the Psychology of Violence journal, published by the American Psychological Association, and has written a variety of publications on family violence and youth victimization.  With Mary Beth Skupien, she also conducted the first reservation-based study of intimate partner violence among American Indians.

Why do you feel children’s exposure to violence is an important issue and how did you get involved?

Starting with children is our best chance to break the cycle of violence and reduce the psychological, physical, and financial burdens of violence.  Like virtually everyone, I have seen the price that loved ones pay when they are exposed to violence. My own work in the anti-violence movement started with domestic violence, which is also a key part of the solution to reducing the societal burden of violence.  David Finkelhor knew I liked questionnaire development and he asked me to help develop a measure that could assess the full spectrum of violence.  That turned into the Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire (JVQ).  More personally, having children of my own has changed the way I view the problem of violence.  Becoming a mother has been a big part of my developing a focus that is more child-centered and family-centered and less oriented around institutional categories.

What have you learned through your work on NatSCEV?

I learned that the interconnections among all forms of violence are stronger than I ever even imagined.  Who knew that victims of sexual assault are also at higher risk for property crime?  Early work tended to look for connections across seemingly similar types of violence, such as domestic violence against an intimate partner and physical abuse against a child.  It turns out this “matchy-matchy” approach is wrong.  Other forms of child maltreatment, such as neglect, are more closely tied to domestic violence, for example.  Most of the underlying vulnerabilities that lead to poly-victimization (multiple victimizations) are not specific to any one type of violence.

What would you like to see develop in research, policy and/or communities regarding children’s exposure to violence?

I would like to see a more developmental approach.  In many ways, the needs of a 6-year old who has been maltreated are more like the needs of a 6-year old who has been bullied than they are like a 16-year old who has been maltreated.  Services would be better organized around the main developmental stages of childhood, not by specific types of violence.  Zero-to-Three is one such model.  Why stop at 3?


Sandy Hook Elementary shooting: A month later

Sandy HookThe tragic acts of violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School have shaken the entire nation.  It pushed all of us to come together to share our repulsion and grief. It led us to talk about how to move forward in light of this tragic event, how to prevent violence before it happens, and how to create peaceful communities with thriving youth.

Inclinations to intensify security in schools are being reconsidered.  Parents and teachers, however, have warned us that we should not turn our schools into fortresses.  Other emphases have focused on asking whether the shooter could have been identified ahead of time, the presence of mental illness and identifying the characteristics of mass shooters that can shed a light on his motivation for the heinous act.  These concerns highlight the need for more mental health support resources and threat assessment teams in every school.  The goal is for people to seek assistance when they recognize that someone is troubled and requires help. Effective prevention cannot wait until there is a gunman in the school parking lot.

This time the tragedy took place in a school. But plenty of shootings occur in communities throughout the United States every day.  Few of them occur in schools and though they are especially tragic, children are safer in schools than in almost any other place, including for many, their own homes.  Data from the National Survey of Children Exposed to Violence shows that children’s exposure to violence is pervasive in the United States and that it has an accumulated effect. If a child is exposed to one type of violence he/she is more likely to be experience other types of victimization. The economic costs of violence are high, but the social costs, even though less quantifiable, are even higher.  Evidence suggests that children and youth exposed to violence in their home and communities are at greater risk of developing physical, mental and socially negative outcomes.

Violence is preventable and there is a strong and growing evidence base to support that fact.  However, because prevention occurs well before the violence would occur — and if it is successful, violence doesn’t occur at all— activities may not be recognized as violence prevention at all.

The nation’s approach to violence has largely been to wait to act until a violent event occurs that causes considerable harm.  All too often, opportunities are missed to use evidence-based approaches to prevent the occurrence, establish building blocks for healthy development in all young people and limit the family, environment and community violence that increase risks.

Check back with us tomorrow as we address some of the questions many have had in the wake of this tragic shooting.

#CEVchat: Children and DV recap

Exposure to DV puts kids at risk for becoming poly-victims, more so than many other forms of violence.

— Sherry Hamby, psychologist and NatSCEV researcher

In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Safe Start Center teamed up with VAWnet to host a Twitter chat on children’s exposure to domestic violence.

Special guest Sherry Hamby discussed the issue related to findings from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV).

Hamby explained that NatSCEV found more than one in four children were exposed to domestic violence during their lifetime and that the definition of parents has been expanded to include others in a household that may participate in the violence.

“Boyfriends of mothers, for example, were 1 of 9 perpetrators and are missed in most studies of children’s exposure to dv,” Hamby tweeted.

Other than Hamby’s insight, participants from across the country were able to connect, ask questions and share resources. From polyvictimization to building resilience, the chat covered multiple aspects of children’s exposure to domestic violence.

Missed the chat? Catch up on the discussion on Storify.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is almost over, but work to protect children exposed to this type of violence isn’t. Below, find helpful resources for anyone who works with children and families touched by domestic violence.

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New toolkit for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Life has been chaotic and scary for 8-year-old Tonya.

Her father has abused her mother for years, and Tonya never knows when things will get bad. Finally, a beating pushes Claire, Tonya’s mother, over the edge.

Claire waits for her husband to leave for his night job. Then, at nearly one o’clock in the morning, she gets Tonya out of bed. Without bothering to pack, the two race outside to a waiting cab, which takes them to the Inn Transition South, a women’s shelter and transitional housing site in Miami.

After arriving safely at the shelter, mother and daughter are exhausted and scared. Over the next few weeks, Claire settles in, but Tonya begins to change.

She wakes up with nightmares, and she won’t interact with the other children at the shelter. Claire worries that Tonya is blaming herself for the violence they have experienced. She longs to see her daughter’s beautiful smile again.

This scenario, one of a participant of a former Safe Start grantee program in Miami, is one of many examples of how exposure to domestic violence can harm a child. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that 15.5 million children in the U.S. lived in families in which violence between partners occurred at least once in the previous year and seven million children lived in families in which severe partner violence occurred.

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Domestic Violence Awareness Month

When one adult physically or emotionally abuses another in a household that contains children, the adult victim isn’t the only one who suffers.

In the room where the abuse is happening, or even down the hallway, a child who sees or hears the abuse is also at risk.

The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence found:

  • One in four children (26 percent) were exposed to at least one form of family violence during their lifetimes.
  • Sixty-eight percent of these youth who witnessed family violence, witnessed acts committed only by males, although assaults by mothers and other caregivers were also common.

And according to a Futures Without Violence fact sheet:

  • 15.5 million U.S. children live in families in which partner violence occurred at least once in the past year, and seven million children live in families in which severe partner violence occurred.
  • In a single day in 2007, 13,485 children were living in a domestic violence shelter or transitional housing facility. Another 5,526 sought services at a non-residential program.
  • The UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children conservatively estimates that 275 million children worldwide are exposed to violence in the home.

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