United States Fund for UNICEF

06/11/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/11/2024 11:36

Nearly 400 Million Young Children Worldwide Regularly Experience Violent Discipline at Home – UNICEF

NEW YORK (June 11, 2024) - Nearly 400 million children under 5 - or 6 in 10 children within that age group globally - regularly endure psychological aggression or physical punishment at home, according to new UNICEF estimates. Of them, around 330 million are punished by physical means.

The findings also emphasize the crucial role of play in children's development and the mental health of children, parents, and caregivers in response to data that highlights the prevalence of inadequate caregiving, including stimulation and interaction at home.

"When children are subjected to physical or verbal abuse at home, or when they are deprived of social and emotional care from their loved ones, it can undermine their sense of self-worth and development," said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. "Nurturing and playful parenting can bring joy and also help children feel safe, learn, build skills, and navigate the world around them."

More and more countries are prohibiting physical punishment against children in the home. Over half of the 66 countries that have banned the practice have enacted legislation within the past 15 years, but this still leaves around half a billion children under the age of 5 without adequate legal protection.

Globally, harmful social norms that underpin violent childrearing methods persist, with slightly more than 1 in 4 mothers and primary caregivers indicating that physical punishment is necessary to raise and educate children properly, according to the findings.

The data - released on the first-ever International Day of Play - also underscore disparities in caregiving practices and access to play opportunities. For example, new estimates show that approximately 4 in 10 children aged 2-4 years do not get enough responsive interaction or stimulation at home, meaning they may experience emotional neglect and a sense of detachment, insecurity, and behavioral issues that can persist into adulthood. Meanwhile, 1 in 10 misses out on activities with their caregivers that are critical to promoting cognitive, social, and emotional development, like reading, storytelling, singing, and drawing.

The data also show that around 1 in 5 children aged 2-4 years do not play with their caregivers at home, while roughly 1 in 8 under age 5 do not have toys or playthings at home.

Studies show that evidence-based parenting programs improve caregiving, reduce family violence and maltreatment, and enhance the mental health of children and parents. These programs include coaching on positive approaches, building strong parent-child relationships, and supporting play, nonviolent discipline, and communication.

To ensure every child grows up feeling safe and loved, UNICEF calls on governments to strengthen efforts and investment in:

  • Protection: Strengthening legal and policy frameworks that prohibit and end all forms of violence against children in the home
  • Parenting support: Scaling up evidence-based parenting programs that promote positive, playful approaches, and prevent family violence
  • Playful learning: Expanding access to learning and play spaces for children, including preschools, schools, and playgrounds

"On the first International Day of Play, we must unite and recommit to ending violence against children and promoting positive, nurturing, and playful caregiving," added Russell.

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About UNICEF
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to pursue a more equitable world for every child. UNICEF has helped save more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF USA advances the global mission of UNICEF by rallying the American public to support the world's most vulnerable children. Together, we are working toward a world that upholds the rights of all children and helps every child thrive. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.

For more information please contact:
Jenna Buraczenski, UNICEF USA, (917) 720-1432, [email protected]