Exposure to violence, whether directly or as a bystander, can have far-reaching, negative consequences for children.
The goal of our activities related to children exposed to violence is to increase evidence-based knowledge and ultimately inform the development and enhancement of strategies to reduce the impact of violence on children and youth. Our research agenda takes a broad, public health approach to violence and victimization. It emphasizes the significant negative effects of exposure to violence as well as the positive outcomes associated with the disruption of violence.
In addition to funding external research, NIJ:
- Conducts intramural research.
- Coordinates with other federal agencies.
- Forms partnerships with researchers, practitioners, policymakers and advocacy communities.
- Participates in expert working groups.
Read meeting notes and presentations from the Children Exposed to Violence Meeting October 20-21, 2015 (pdf, 190 pages)
Why Researching Children’s Exposure to Violence Is Important
Children may experience violence in many settings, including at home, in school, online or in neighborhoods, and in many forms, such as bullying or harassment by peers, domestic violence, child maltreatment and community violence. Exposure to violence can harm a child’s emotional, psychological and even physical development. Children exposed to violence are more likely to have difficulty in school, abuse drugs or alcohol, act aggressively, suffer from depression or other mental health problems and engage in criminal behavior as adults.
Research also shows that disrupting violence is associated with positive outcomes for children and that interventions to improve parent-child relationships can decrease harmful effects and improve a child’s development. NIJ’s research on children exposed to violence informs the development of programs, practices and policies that prevent violence or reduce its impact on children and youth.
NIJ’s Relationship to the Defending Childhood Initiative
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Defending Childhood Initiative aims to prevent children’s exposure to violence, reduce negative outcomes and raise awareness. The department funded eight sites around the country to adopt comprehensive strategies that respond to and prevent children’s exposure to violence. NIJ-supported process and outcome evaluations of six of these sites produced recommendations for sites, funders and technical assistance providers and provided insights into implementing, funding and sustaining programs.
Learn more about the evaluations:
- Read a summary and access the final report of the process evaluation, Protect, Heal, Thrive: Lessons Learned From the Defending Childhood Demonstration Program.
- Read a summary and access the final report of the outcome evaluation, Outcome Evaluation of the Defending Childhood Demonstration Program.
- Read more about the Defending Childhood Initiative.
[note 1] NIJ’s working definition of children exposed to violence excludes exposure to media violence (e.g., television, movies, music, video games).