Saturday, September 30, 2017

Root causes of violence against children


A key factor that makes children and adolescents, particularly girls, vulnerable to violence (and increases the likelihood that boys and men perpetrate such violence) is social tolerance of both victimization of girls and perpetration by boys and men. Often this abuse or exploitation is perceived as normal and beyond the control of communities which, alongside shame, fear and the belief that no one can help, results in low levels of reporting to authorities. In addition, victims are often blamed for the violence they experience. This social tolerance of violence in general, and intimate partner and sexual violence in particular, stems from the low status of women and children in many societies, and cultural norms surrounding gender and masculinity. Therefore, changing gender norms relating to male entitlement over girls and women’s bodies – and control over their behaviour – is a critical strategy to achieve gender equality, reduce violence aimed at girls, shape prevention activities and address specific care and support needs.
Violence is also rooted in a number of other social, economic and cultural factors that impact communities, families, relationships, and the manner in which children experience their daily lives. The social ecological model depicts this interplay of individual, relationship, community, and societal factors
• Individual-level risk factors include biological and personal history aspects such as sex, age, education, income, disability, impaired brain and cognitive development, psychological disorders, harmful use of alcohol, drug abuse, and a history of aggression or maltreatment.
• Close-relationship level risk factors include a lack of emotional bonding, poor parenting practices, family dysfunction and separation, associating with delinquent peers, children witnessing violence against their mother or stepmother, and early or forced marriage.
• Community-level risk factors include how the characteristics of settings such as schools, workplaces and neighbourhoods increase the risk of violence. These include poverty, high population density, transient populations, low social cohesion, unsafe physical environments, high crime rates and the existence of a local drug trade.
• Society-level risk factors include legal and social norms that create a climate in which violence is encouraged or normalized. These also include health, economic, educational and social policies that maintain economic, gender or social inequalities; absent or inadequate social protection; social fragility owing to conflict, post-conflict or natural disaster; weak governance and poor law enforcement.

The interaction between factors at the different levels is just as important as the influence of factors within a single level (9) . For example, longitudinal studies suggest that complications associated with pregnancy and delivery – perhaps because they lead to neurological damage and psychological or personality disorder (individual risk factors) – seem to predict child maltreatment and youth violence mainly when they occur in combination with other problems within the family, such as poor parenting practices (34) . Several other common risk factors – such as family dysfunction and low social cohesion within the community – place some children at much greater risk than others. And, as humanitarian crises including war, mass refugee movements, economic migration, climate disasters and disease outbreaks proliferate, more children than ever are becoming vulnerable to violence of all forms. 
Though programmes and policies often address different forms of violence in isolation, it is important to recognize that the different forms are connected, as they share common root causes. Because they share common causes, they often occur together, and one can lead to another. For instance, being a victim of child maltreatment can increase the risk in later life of becoming a victim or perpetrator of sexual violence, youth violence, self-directed violence and intimate partner violence. Children who witness intimate partner violence against their mother or stepmother are also more likely to experience such violence in later life – both as victims and as perpetrators (35–36) . Thus, programmes that effectively address root causes have high potential for reducing multiple forms of violence against children

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