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The Facts on Children's Exposure to Violence

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2015
4 pages

After documenting the prevalence and adverse effects of children's exposure to violence, this paper recommends policy and practice changes that can promote children's resilience in coping with the potentially handicapping effects of witnessing or being a victim of violence.


The U.S. Attorney General's Defending Childhood initiative defines children's exposure to violence as being the witness or direct victim of bullying, child abuse, sexual assault, community and school violence, dating violence, and exposure to adult or parental domestic violence. In reviewing the prevalence of children's exposure to violence in their homes, schools, and communities, this paper reports that 40 percent of teens (ages 14-17) have been exposed to at least one form of intimate partner violence (IPV) during their lifetimes. Historical trauma and structural violence linked to racism, prejudice, and discrimination impact American- Indian, Alaska-Native, and African-American communities. A smaller but still significant portion of children experience frequent and ongoing violence. Left unaddressed, exposure to violence adversely affects children's ability to succeed in school, be mentally and physically healthy, and be prepared to make positive contributions to their communities. Findings are presented from various research studies that document the prevalence and adverse effects of children's exposure to violence. This report also reviews emerging research on the factors that promote the prevention of and resilience in coping with exposure to violence. In order to prevent violence, social norms that promote or accept violence as normative must be replaced with a commitment to norms that promote supportive interactions of affirmation and challenge behavioral patterns of abuse and violence. When exposure to violence does occur, therapeutic interventions must be accessible and effective in guiding positive coping behaviors and attitudes in victimized children and their families. 22 references

Date Published: December 1, 2015