Half of U.S. Kids Assaulted Each Year: Study

Report calls for better ways to identify and treat young victims of violence

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THURSDAY, Oct. 8 (HealthDay News) -- More than 60 percent of youngsters had either direct or indirect exposure to violence within the past year, according to a U.S. government survey that looked at past-year and lifetime exposure to violence among children aged 17 and younger.

The survey also found that:

  • Nearly half the children surveyed were assaulted at least once in the past year, and more than one in 10 were injured as a result.
  • Nearly one-quarter of the children were the victim of a robbery, vandalism or theft.
  • About 10 percent were victims of maltreatment (including physical and emotional abuse, neglect or a family abduction), and one in 16 were victimized sexually.

The report, Children's Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey, was published by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Major categories covered in the survey include: conventional crime, child maltreatment, victimization by peers and siblings, sexual victimization, witnessing and indirect victimization, school violence and threats, and Internet victimization.

The findings suggest a need for further study of the long-term effects of violence on youth and improved policies to help children who are victims of violence, the authors say. For example:

  • Because the survey tracked children's lifetime exposure to violence, it can help researchers more accurately estimate the number of children in specific age groups who have been exposed to a certain type of violence.
  • The findings offer a clearer picture of the extent of children's exposure to violence, the cumulative effects of multiple exposures to violence, and how being exposed to one form of violence may increase a child's vulnerability to other forms of violence.
  • The results confirm the need for agencies to work together to identify children at risk of exposure to violence (such as witnessing domestic violence) and to coordinate delivery of services to those children.
  • The findings also highlight the need for screening and assessment tools to identify children who are suffering emotionally, physically, socially and developmentally from exposure to violence and would benefit from services and treatment.
  • The survey shows the need for a more comprehensive, coordinated approach to improve the fragmented way in which local, state and federal authorities currently respond to children exposed to violence.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about child abuse.

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