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Violence in the Lives of Children

NCJ Number
Cross Currents Issue: 1 Dated: August 2003 Pages: 1-13
Brett V. Brown Ph.D.; Sharon Bzostek
Date Published
August 2003
13 pages
This document presents information on many types of violence that affect children’s lives, grouped by the frequency with which they occur.
Most children are exposed to media violence at some level on a daily basis through television, video games, or music. In 2001, one-third of all high school students reported being in a physical fight within the last year. Spanking is a broadly accepted and commonly used tool of discipline, particularly for young children. Data show that a substantial minority of youth carry a weapon, such as a gun, knife, or club. While it is rare for children and youth to actually kill themselves, it is not at all rare for them to think about doing so. Statistically, death is an uncommon outcome of violence for children and youth. Little reliable data exist on the percentage of children that live in households in which domestic violence occurs. In 2001, 903,000 cases of child abuse and neglect were reported to and substantiated by child welfare authorities. The rate of physical abuse is much lower. However, these estimates probably underestimate the number of children physically abused because many incidents are never reported to authorities. There were 86,830 substantiated cases of sexual abuse in 2001. In 2001, 5.5 percent of youth between the ages of 12 and 15 and 5.6 percent of youth between the ages of 16 and 19 reported being victims of violent crime during the year. For very young children, the primary locus of violence is the home. Rates of reported physical abuse for middle childhood are about the same as younger children. Homicide and suicide rates increase rapidly throughout the teen years. Violence associated with dating is also fairly common during the teen years. Females are much more likely at every age to be victims of sexual abuse and rape. For most other types of violence, males are at much higher risk than females. The risk of violence is often substantially different for children and youth from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. More data are needed on domestic violence, physical abuse, fighting and bullying, and the consequences of violence throughout childhood. 4 figures, 2 tables, 85 endnotes