As parents, we do everything we can to shelter our kids from violence. But an alarming new study published in the journal Pediatrics finds more than half of the children in the world have been exposed to it in the past year.
The study, called "Global Prevalence of Past-Year Violence Against Children: A Systematic Review and Minimum Estimates," looked at surveys from 96 different countries and concluded that, over the past year, an astonishing 1 billion kids between the ages of 2 and 17 have experienced a violent event.
You'd be right to guess an exposed child faces a greater risk for many long-term problems, such as mental health issues and infectious and chronic diseases. Researchers say an early, traumatizing experience can even impair the structure and function of the brain. But that's not all; a violent event has the potential to deeply impact multiple systems of the body, including immune status, metabolic systems, and cellular inflammatory responses.
As a result of their study findings, the authors hope that in cooperation with the United Nations' new Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, many preventative strategies will be put in place. Specifically, training parents, improving services, and teaching kids social-emotional coping skills can reduce the number of children globally who are negatively impacted by violence.
In our house, it's about making sure my children don't view television programs with violent content. But of course, with the rise of school shootings, I also feel it's incumbent upon me as a parent to talk with them about scary topics like gun violence. Because although it breaks my heart that I'm raising them in such a scary world, I want them to be prepared in any way possible. Given this study, clearly, unthinkably, they must be.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.