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Dec/Jan 2010Vol. 10, No. 10Survey Reveals Extent of Violence in Children's Lives

The results of the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NSCEV) indicate that more than 60 percent of children were directly or indirectly exposed to violence within the past year. The survey results, released in October by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), are based on interviews with a nationally representative sample of 4,549 children and adolescents aged 17 and younger or the younger children's caregivers. The NSCEV was conducted during the first half of 2008, and its results are the subject of a Juvenile Justice Bulletin.

Respondents were asked about violence exposure within the previous year and over the child or adolescent's lifetime. Screening questions asked about 48 types of victimization in the categories of conventional crime, child maltreatment, peer and sibling victimization, sexual victimization, indirect exposure, school violence, and Internet violence. Some of the highlights in the final report include the following:

  • Almost half (46 percent) of children were physically assaulted within the previous year.
  • More than 13 percent reported being bullied within the previous year; lifetime prevalence was almost 22 percent.
  • More than 6 percent of children had been sexually assaulted in the last year, and 9.8 percent had been sexually assaulted at some time in their lives.
  • Just over 10 percent of children were the victims of child maltreatment within the past year.
  • More than one-quarter had witnessed violence within the last year, and more than one-third had witnessed violence in their lifetime.
  • Almost 39 percent reported two or more direct victimizations within the past year.

The authors of the study discuss the implications for policymakers, researchers, and practitioners. Information is also included on the Safe Start Initiative created by DOJ's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The Juvenile Justice Bulletin: National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence was written by David Finkelhor, Heather Turner, Richard Ormrod, Sherry Hamby, and Kristen Kracke and is available for free download: (882 KB)

Another NSCEV report, with more statistics and a full text of the questionnaire and victimization definitions, appears in the November issue of Pediatrics and is also available for free download: