Research Brief: One billion children across the world are exposed to violence in childhood each year

One billion children across the world are exposed to violence in childhood each year


Violence against children is a serious human rights and public health problem that has devastating and costly consequences. Its destructive effects harm children in every country, impacting families, communities, and nations, and reaching across generations. As a result of global attention to the burden of violence against children and efforts to address it, it is important to use the best available evidence to measure how many children in various regions of the world are exposed to violence. But the global burden of violence against children is unknown. To begin to estimate the prevalence of past-year violence against children, researchers systematically reviewed data from population-based surveys and the scientific literature that included data for 96 countries on past-year prevalence of violence against children. They then used the data to develop estimates of the numbers of children in each region that had experienced violence based on data about the prevalence of violence and the size of the population of children in each region.

Key Findings

  • A minimum of 50% of children in Asia, Africa, and Northern America experienced past-year violence.
  • The number of 2-17 year olds who experienced the most severe forms of violence in the past year is estimated to be at least 64% of children in Asia, 56% in Northern America, 50% in Africa, 34% in Latin America, and 12% in Europe.
  • Over half of all children in the world – 1 billion children ages 2-17 years – experience violence every year.

What is added by this report?

These findings use population-based data from about half of the countries in the world to show that over one billion children ages 2 to 17 experience violence each year. These results demonstrate an urgent need for wider adoption, scaling, and sustaining of evidence-based interventions to reduce this high burden of violence against children.


Hillis S, Mercy J, Amobi A, Kress H. Global prevalence of past-year violence against children: A systematic review and minimum estimates. Pediatrics 2016; 137(3): 1-13.

*Footnote: some variation between prevalence estimates from published papers and country reports may exist. This variation reflects slight differences in the subsamples and variables used in the analyses.

Page last reviewed: November 8, 2018