Topic Editor: Richard E. Tremblay, PhD, Université de Montréal, Canada and University College Dublin, Ireland
Topic funded by: Bernard van Leer Foundation
Social violence refers to any type of violence committed by individuals or the community that has a social impact. These violent acts take various forms across countries, including armed conflicts, gang violence, parent-to-child physical aggression (e.g., corporal punishment), terrorism, forced displacement and segregation. Exposure to violence can be direct (e.g., being the victim of a violent act) or indirect (e.g., hearing about violence or witnessing violence involving others). Over the last decade, more than two million children under the age of 18 have died worldwide as a result of armed conflict and at least six million have been seriously injured. It is also estimated that 25% and 40% of children aged between 2 to 17 years old in the United States and southern regions of Africa, respectively, are exposed to violence in their community. In addition to growing up in adversity, most of these children are also socially excluded from formal education, health care, electricity, potable water and sanitation services.
Despite these high estimates, preschoolers’ exposure to social violence has received little attention during the previous decades in comparison to older children. Yet, social violence is an especially important topic to study during this developmental period given that it influences children’s development across multiple domains (physical, social, neurological and emotional) and at different levels.