Violence against children: A global problem

Photographer: Daniel van Moll

Violence against children is one of the biggest problems affecting families and societies. It happens all around the world, in all countries and societies; all too often it happens in the family. Read on to learn more about the problem of violence against children and effective approaches to ending it.

The many faces of violence against children

Violence against children has many faces and forms: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, emotional abuse, and more.

Domestic violence is one of the main causes of family breakdown, and a primary reason why children lose parental care.

One of the most common forms of violence against children is corporal punishment, also called 'physical punishment'.
  • As many as 275 million children worldwide are exposed to violence at home. [UNICEF 2014]
  • A quarter of all adults report having been physically abused as children. [WHO 2014]
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child. [WHO 2014
  • 6 in 10 children aged 2 to 14 are regularly physically punished by caregivers. [UNICEF 2014]
  • Only 49 states have prohibited all forms of corporal punishment of children, including in the family home. [Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children]

Violence in families

A UN study from 2006 established how widespread violence against children is in families, from corporal punishment (one of the most common forms of violence against children), to domestic violence, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. The study also found that the family is where violence against children can be most difficult to stop:

“Eliminating and responding to violence against children is perhaps most challenging in the context of the family, considered by most as the most ‘private’ of private spheres. However, children’s rights to life, survival, development, dignity and physical integrity do not stop at the door of the family home, nor do States’ obligations to ensure these rights for children.”

End Violence!

Violence can affect a child for the rest of their life.

Research has shown the terrible impact of violence on childhood development and life outcomes – from poorer marks in school, to diminished lifetime income, depression, and higher risk of becoming a victim or perpetrator of violence later.

Photographer: Danielle Pereira
Therefore, ending violence against children is not only important for each child’s rights, but also for healthy communities and societies.

SOS Children's Villages works to help end violence through a variety of projects and activities, including family strengthening, teaching positive discipline as an alternative to corporal punishment, providing safe means to report abuse, advocacy and awareness raising.

SOS Children's Villages has joined UNICEF and other key partners to establish End Violence, a Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, an advocacy initiative bringing together stakeholders from different areas to work together to end violence against children.