Stopping Violence Against Children

Armen Hareyan's picture

The health sector has a critical role in the early detection of violence in children.

Child abuse or maltreatment refers to all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment of commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child's health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power. This definition covers a broad spectrum usually grouped in four types: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect.


This could avoid a range of negative health and social consequences, including chronic suffering as well as sexual violence, intimate partner violence and youth violence. The delivery of effective primary prevention requires the coordinated working together of different sectors. The evidence for home visitation and for programmes that focus on family relationships and functioning is among the best practices for reducing child abuse and its negative outcomes.

Child abuse has long-term impact and often happens at home

Evidence highlights increased risky behaviors on the part of victims later in life, eventually leading to chronic disease and disorders up to death. Exposure to child abuse is associated with a 4-12 fold increase in risk for alcoholism, drug use disorders, depression, and suicide attempts later in life.

Abuse is most likely to happen in the "private sphere" of home and family where European infants and young children spend up to 90% of their time. Official statistics reveal little about the levels and patterns of child abuse since only the most severe cases are reported. On an average day, about 4 children under 15 die from homicide and assault, a figure probably underestimated as it does not include murders (which may be misclassified as suicides or unintentional injuries, e.g. accidental falls, drowning, poisoning). Child mortality from homicide varies widely across the European Region, with rates nearly three times higher in the Commonwealth of Independent States than in the European Union.