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Child, Youth, and Teen VictimizationPDF icon

Children, youth, and teens experience high levels of victimization. Crimes against young people include abuse, neglect, and homicide, and a majority of children and adolescents have experienced some form of physical assault in their lifetimes. Teenagers, in particular, experience high levels of assault, maltreatment, and property victimization. Large percentages of children, youth, and teens are also regularly exposed to physical and emotional violence in their homes, schools, and neighborhoods. Schools are more aware than other authorities about child victimization, especially because more crimes are committed against children at school than outside of school.

  • Of children ages 0 to 17 years, 61 percent experienced at least one direct or indirect victimization in the previous 12 months.[1]
  • Chart: Victimization of teens, ages 14-17, by typeOf the U.S. population of 14- to 17-year-olds, 71 percent had been assaulted, 53 percent had experienced a property victimization (including robbery) 32 percent had been maltreated, and 28 percent had been sexually victimized at some point in their lifetime.[2]
  • In 2008, of children aged 0 to 17, 4.8 percent of males and 7.4 percent of females were sexually victimized, 4.3 percent of males and 4.4 percent of females were physically abused, and 1.7 percent of males and 1.3 percent of females had experienced neglect in the previous year.[3]
  • At some point in their lifetime, 57 percent of children and adolescents (age 0 to 17) experienced some form of physical assault, 51 percent were victims of bullying (emotional or physical), and 10 percent were victims of assault with a weapon.[4]
  • Just under one-half (45 percent) of all child victims of maltreatment were white, 22 percent were African American, and 21 percent were Hispanic.[5]
  • In 2010, child protective services found approximately 754,000 children were victims of maltreatment (abuse and neglect). Children ages 0 to 3 years account for 34 percent of child maltreatment victims.[6] Parents are the perpetrators of child maltreatment in 81 percent of the cases.[7]
  • Chart: Child Maltreatment by Type of AbuseDuring 2010, 62 percent of child maltreatment victims experienced neglect, 14 percent were physically abused, 7 percent were sexually abused, 6 percent were psychologically maltreated, and 2 percent were medically neglected. In addition, 8 percent of child victims experienced other types of maltreatment.[8]
  • In 2010, an estimated 1,560 children died as a result of maltreatment. Forty-eight percent of these children were under a year old. Seventy-nine percent of child fatalities were caused by the child’s parents, and 29 percent of fatalities were caused by the mother alone.[9]
  • In 2008, data showed that more crimes committed against students ages 12 to 18 occurred at school rather than away from school. This same population experienced 1.2 million nonfatal crimes at school.[10]
  • Authorities often knew about nonphysical victimizations that occur in school, such as relational aggression (52 percent) and property theft (47 percent), or types of victimization that leave signs a teacher in a classroom or a doctor in the course of a medical examination might detect, such as neglect (48 percent).[11]
  • School officials were aware of 42 percent of child victimizations cases, while police were aware of only 13 percent and medical personnel were aware of only 2 percent.[12]
  • In 2009, 33 percent of high school students had been in a physical fight one or more times during the previous 12 months, and about 4 percent had been in a fight in which they were injured and had to be treated by a nurse or doctor.[13]
  • Chart: Child, youth, and teen murder victims by ageIn 2010, 10 percent (1,277) of children and youth under 18 years of age were victims of homicide. Of total homicides, 9 percent (890) were males under the age of 18, and 13 percent (386) were female under the age of 18 (the sex of one victim was unknown). Of homicide victims under the age of 18 with known race, 49 percent (622) were black and 48 percent (599) were white. (The race of 56 victims was either “other” or “unknown.”)[14]
  • In 2010, of the 1,277 children under 18 years of age who were murdered, 15 percent (186) were infants under age one, 25 percent (313) were children 1 to 4 years of age, 7 percent (85) were children 5 to 8 years of age, 3 percent (43) were children 9 to 12 years of age, 28 percent (363) were youth 13 to 16 years of age, and 23 percent (287) were teens age 17 to 18.[15]
  • Chart: Children's exposure to violenceMore than 1 in 4 children witnessed an act of violence in their homes, schools, and communities within the previous year. Of children surveyed, 38 percent witnessed an act of violence sometime during their lifetime.[16] Eighty-six percent of children who had a lifetime exposure to violence also reported exposure to violence within the previous 12 months.[17]
  • As of November 2009, 22 states and Puerto Rico had enacted legislation addressing the issue of children witnessing domestic violence. Thirteen states provide for enhanced penalties in domestic violence cases when a child is present. Three states require the perpetrator pay for any counseling needed by the child, two states mandate counseling for the offender, and one state requires—in cases where the noncustodial parent had committed domestic violence in the presence of a child—that child visitation be supervised for a period of one to two years.[18]
  • In 2008, 1 in 10 children under the age of 18 had witnessed a family assault in the previous twelve months and 1 in 5 had witnessed a family assault at some point in their lifetime.[19]
  • In the past year, 37 percent of children were exposed to an assault with no weapon or injury, 15 percent witnessed an assault with a weapon and/or an injury, 6 percent experienced sexual victimization, and 10 percent experienced child maltreatment.[20]
  • Over 80 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) high school students of color hear the word “gay” or “queer” in a negative connotation often or frequently while in school.[21]  


  1. David Finkelhor et al., “Violence, Abuse, and Crime Exposure in a National Sample of Children and Youth,” Pediatrics 124, no. 5 (2009): 1411, accessed September 5, 2012, http://www.pediatricsdigest.mobi/content/124/5/1411.full.pdf.
  2. Ibid., 1413-1415.
  3. Ibid., 1414.
  4. Ibid., Table 1.
  5. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book, (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 2012), “Characteristics of Child Maltreatment Victims, 2010,” accessed September 5, 2012, http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/victims/qa02102.asp?qaDate=2010&text=.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid., “Percent of Perpetrators by Relationship to Victim, 2010,” accessed September 5, 2012, http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/victims/qa02111.asp?qaDate=2010.
  8. Ibid., “Characteristics of Child Maltreatment Victims, 2010.”
  9. Ibid., “Characteristics of Fatality Victims of Child Maltreatment, 2010,” accessed September 5, 2012, http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/victims/qa02109.asp?qaDate=2010.
  10. National Center for Education Statistics, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2010, (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Justice, 2011), 10, accessed September 5, 2012, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2011/2011002.pdf.
  11. David Finkelhor et al., “Child and Youth Victimization Known to Police, School, and Medical Authorities,” Juvenile Justice Bulletin (Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice, 2012), 3, accessed August 30, 2012, http://www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/235394.pdf.
  12. Ibid., 1.
  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2011,” Surveillance Summaries (Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), 61, no. 4 (2012): 7-8, accessed October 16, 2012, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6104.pdf.
  14. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States, 2010, (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 2011), calculated from Expanded Homicide Data Table 2, accessed September 5, 2012, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10shrtbl02.xls.
  15. Ibid.
  16. David Finkelhor et al., “Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey,” Juvenile Justice Bulletin (Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice, 2009), 6, accessed September 5, 2012, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/227744.pdf.
  17. Finkelhor, “Violence, Abuse, and Crime Exposure,” 1413.
  18. Child Welfare Information Gateway, Child Witness to Domestic Violence: Summary of State Laws, (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009), 2-3, accessed September 5, 2012, http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/witnessdvall.pdf.
  19. Finkelhor, “Violence, Abuse, and Crime Exposure,” calculated from data on p. 1415.
  20. Finkelhor, “Children’s Exposure to Violence,” 4.
  21. Elizabeth M. Diaz and Joseph G. Kosciw, Shared Differences: the Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Students of Color in Our Nation’s Schools, (New York, NY: Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, 2009), 11-12, accessed September 5, 2012, http://www.glsen.org/binary-data/GLSEN_ATTACHMENTS/file/000/001/1332-1.pdf.