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Saving Lives and Protecting People: Preventing Violence Against Children and Youth

Violence against children and youth is all too common. It is likely you have heard stories of people whose lives have been touched by violence: A child seriously injured at the hands of a parent. A teenager involved in an abusive dating relationship. A youth shot and killed after an argument with another teen.

The toll and nature of deaths due to violence against children and youth is staggering. Each year:

  • More than 1,500 children ages 0 to 17 die from child abuse and neglect—about 80% of deaths occur among children younger than age 4.1
  • More than 5,000 young people ages 1 to 24 were murdered, making homicide the second leading cause of death for this age group.2

Child abuse and neglect (also called child maltreatment), youth violence, sexual violence, and teen dating violence pose serious threats to the health, well-being, and safety of our nation’s young people. In addition to the physical and emotional harm, violence against young people exacts a substantial financial burden. For child maltreatment alone, the total lifetime costs—health care, child welfare, criminal justice, and the value of lost future productivity and earnings—are $124 billion each year.3

In the United States

 calendar icon An average of 13 young people ages 10 to 24 are victims of homicide every day.2

 hospital icon More than 750,000 children and youth are treated in hospital emergency departments as a result of assault each year—that’s more than 85 every hour.4

 Child icon More than 3 million referrals for child maltreatment are received by state and local agencies each year—that’s approximately 6 referrals every minute.1

Improving the Community Reduces Youth Violence

 Photo: A group of teenagers walking down an urban streetA RAND Corporation analysis of official crime reports found that business improvement district (BID) areas had a 12% drop in robbery rates, an 8% drop in violent crime overall, and 32% fewer police arrests over time compared with non-BID areas.5 A cost analysis found that BIDs also resulted in cost savings due to reduced crime rates, reduced arrests, and lower prosecution-related expenditures. CDC funded the RAND study to evaluate the impact of BIDs—which change community factors linked with crime and violence—on youth violence and violent crime in Los Angeles communities.

For more than 20 years, CDC’s Injury Center has helped protect Americans from violence and injury threats. We are the nation’s leading authority on violence and injury. We study violence and injuries and research the best ways to prevent them, applying science for real-world solutions to keep people safe, healthy, and productive.

Preventing violence against children and youth is one of the Center’s focus areas. We work with diverse partners to develop and promote science-based initiatives that foster safe and healthy children and youth who can reach their full potential as connected and contributing members of violence-free families, schools, and communities.   

Here are just a few examples of our efforts in this focus area:

Collecting and Sharing Data to Understand the Problem

NISVS report cover

  • Through the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), the Injury Center gathers, shares, and links state-level data on violent deaths. The system’s comprehensive, accurate data allow policy makers and community leaders to make informed decisions about violence prevention initiatives.
  • Through the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), launched in 2010, the Injury Center gathers data to describe the prevalence and health consequences of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence. These data can be used to inform policies and programs; establish priorities at the national, state, and local level; and over time, track progress in preventing these forms of violence.

Learn More about Our Publications

Promoting Safe, Stable, and Nurturing Relationships for Children

Photo: Dad carrying son on his shoulders

  • As an overall strategy for child maltreatment prevention, the Injury Center promotes safe, stable, and nurturing relationships (SSNRs) between children and their caregivers. SSNRs are fundamental to healthy growth, learning, and development. The Injury Center is strengthening the role of state public health agencies to promote SSNRs and prevent child maltreatment through an effort called the Public Health Leadership Initiative.
  • The Injury Center’s Essentials for Childhood suggests strategies for communities to consider. It is intended for anyone committed to the positive development of children and families. It lays out four goals for creating SSNRs for children and suggested steps to move toward these goals: 1) raising awareness; 2) using data to inform actions; 3) changing norms and creating programs that foster healthy children and families; and 4) identifying evidence-based policies to promote SSNRs.

Learn More about Preventing Child Maltreatment

Promoting Safe and Healthy Youth

 Photo: group of kidsThe Injury Center promotes strategies to prevent youth violence that are based on the best available evidence. These strategies are aimed at providing youth with skills, safe environments, supportive relationships, and opportunities for success. We provide leadership to the field and fund critical public health programs through the following initiatives:

Learn More about Preventing Youth Violence

Promoting Healthy, Respectful Relationships Among Youth

Photo: A group of smiling teenagers

Learn More about Sexual Violence

Preventing Sexual Violence Against Girls Around the Globe

 Photo: A girl wearing a head scarfAs part of Together for Girls, the Injury Center works with national and global partners to document the magnitude and effect of sexual violence against girls. These efforts also support tailored interventions, draw public attention to the problem, and motivate changes in norms and behaviors. Together for Girls brings hope to girls worldwide for safer and healthier lives free from violence, exploitation, and abuse.

Learn More about Preventing Global Violence

CDC Works 24/7 to Save Lives and Protect People
CDC’s Injury Center is committed to saving lives, protecting people, and lowering the health and societal costs of violence against children and youth. Our goal is to offer states, youth-serving organizations, parents, and others timely, accurate information and useful tools and resources to foster safe and healthy young people. Take action today by learning more about ways you can protect children and youth from violence!


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2012) Child Maltreatment 2011. [accessed 2013 May 22]. Available from:
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2011) [accessed 2011 Dec 29]. Available from:
  3. Fang X, Brown DS, Florence C, Mercy J. The economic burden of child maltreatment in the United States and implications for prevention. Child Abuse and Neglect 2012;36(2):156-65.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. United States, Assault, all injury causes, nonfatal injuries and rates per 100,000, all races, both sexes, ages 0 to 24. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online] (2008) [accessed 2011 Dec 7]. Available from:
  5. MacDonald J, Golinelli D, Stokes RJ, Bluthenthal R. The effect of business improvement districts on the incidence of violent crimes. Injury Prevention 2010;16:327-32.