Forms of violence

The toll of violence against children

A lifelong concern, an intergenerational legacy Despite the positive developments seen in recent years, the urgent need to protect children from violence has not diminished. No country or region is ‘immune’ to violence against children. Every five minutes, somewhere on our planet, violence takes the life of another child. Every year, at least 1 billion children – half of the world’s children – suffer violence.

A global promise has been made to the world’s children: the violence they face will be brought to an end by the year 2030.

This binding promise has emerged from a decades-long process that has reshaped the way in which we view children and, in turn, the way we are expected to treat them. This process has gained much-needed momentum in recent years as countries pursue implementation efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our work draws on three decades of implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as 10 years of the implementation of the 2006 United Nations Study on Violence against Children promoted by the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children. 

We have witnessed positive change in recent years in line with global efforts to ensure that children are protected from violence.

The violence children endure is cumulative and interlinked, often spanning their home life, their school, their community and their online world, and children are rarely affected by one form of violence alone. Any child subjected to violence in any of these settings is likely to experience violence in any or all of the others. Studies show that children exposed to violence at an early age are more likely to be victims of violence later in life and become perpetrators, using violence against their partners and children; as well as being more likely to engage in criminal behaviour. As children grow up, the cumulative impact of violence casts a shadow over every part of their lives and is often passed on to their own children – a grim legacy that may persist for generations.

The end result is often the perpetuation of a vicious, intergenerational cycle of violence,12 with violence breeding more violence. We are also learning more about the close links between violence against children, against women, and domestic violence, which are mutually reinforcing.