US kids exposed to greater violence than suspected

October 8th, 2009 - 5:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 8 (IANS) US children are routinely exposed to even more violence and abuse than has been previously recognised, with nearly half experiencing physical assault, says a new study.
“Children experience far more violence, abuse and crime than adults,” said David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Crimes against Children Research Centre and the study director. “If life were this dangerous for ordinary grown-ups, we’d never tolerate it.”

UNH researchers asked a national sample of US children and their care-givers about a far broader range of exposures than has been done in the past.

According to the research, three out of five children were exposed to violence, abuse or criminal victimisation in the last year, including 46 percent who had been physically assaulted, 10 percent who had been maltreated by a caregiver, six percent who had been sexually victimised, and 10 percent who had witnessed an assault within their family.

The authors contend that earlier studies of violent exposure only inquired about individual crimes - looking only at bullying or child maltreatment or sexual abuse.

Conversely, this study asked about all such exposures as well as additional ones that are rarely, if ever, covered such as dating violence and witnessing domestic violence.

The study found that more than a third of the children had had two or more different kinds of exposures in the past year and 11 percent had five or more.

“Studies have missed the fact that there are a surprisingly large group of very repeatedly and variously victimised kids whom we should be doing a better job to help and protect,” Finkelhor said.

The study was conducted in 2008 and involved interviews with care-givers and youth about their experiences and had a nationally representative sample of 4,549 children up to 17 years of age.

The research was published in the journal Paediatrics.

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