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Question of the week


How does violence affect children?

© Catharine Way - 2004
A boy 'locked' at home in Shkodra, northern Albania, for protection against inter-family revenge killing, known as blood feud

Across the European region, four children die due to violence every day. Violence of many types is so deeply rooted in society that it is often considered normal – such as spanking children for bad behaviour or using physical punishment in school as a form of discipline. Some groups believe it is acceptable for a man to smack his wife if she does not ‘obey’ him – which perpetuates acceptance of violence among children who witness it. In Albania, violence in the family and at school are especially worrying.

UNICEF Albania participated in a regional consultation on violence against children in Ljubljana from 5 to 7 July. The conference pointed out that so little research has been done, no one knows how many children are affected by violence and in what ways. Participating governments, including Albania’s, agreed to nine action points to fight violence, including legislative improvements, developing high-quality information and data on the problem, and helping children develop the knowledge and skills to fight violence. Click here to see the Final Conclusions of the consultation.

Violence is associated with gender disparities, social exclusion, absence of a primary care giver and societal norms. Other factors include drug and alcohol abuse, availability of firearms, unemployment and crime. Violence is found in institutions such as orphanages, in the streets, in the workplace. It is presented widely in the media.

Violence affects children whether or not they are physically struck. A child who lives in a violent environment lives with fear, often becoming withdrawn and unable to form social relationships or concentrate on learning. Violence and abuse can kill; more often they result in poor physical and mental health, deny a child education, or make children run away from home, exposing them to further risks.

The urgent need to protect children from violence, exploitation, abuse and discrimination was recognized in 1989 in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, now ratified by 191 countries including Albania. With its partners, UNICEF Albania works to prevent violence and teach alternative means of conflict resolution. Teachers in 40 elementary schools have been trained to recognize and assist children facing violence at home or elsewhere, and over 3,000 students have participated in creative workshops on non-violent forms of conflict resolution.



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