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Violence has probably always been part of the human experience. Its impact can be seen, in various forms, in all parts of the world. Each year, more than a million people lose their lives, and many more suffer non-fatal injuries, because of self-inflicted, interpersonal, or collective violence. Overall, violence is among the leading causes of death worldwide for people aged 15–44 years (Krug, Dahlberg, Mercy, Zwi, & Lozano, 2002).

Violence is a serious violation of human rights, that limits people’s right to life, liberty, security, dignity, mental and physical integrity, and non-discrimination. The WHO (Krug et al., 2002) defines violence as: “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation”.

Violence can be based on a person’s race, nationality, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, financial status, age, and gender. If the violence goes towards some unchangeable characteristics, then its considered hate-crime.

Violence is a major public health problem. It affects billions of peoples’ lives each year, through death, injury, and detrimental impacts on neurological, cardiovascular, immune, and other biological systems. Unsafe sex, harmful alcohol and drug use and smoking are more frequent among victims, among whom they contribute to lifelong ill health and premature mortality. Individuals maltreated in childhood are more likely to be involved in interpersonal violence as they grow up, and to attempt suicide (WHO, 2022).

Typology of violence

The typology proposed here divides violence into three broad categories according to characteristics of those committing the violent act (Butchart, Phinney, Check, & Villaveces, 2004; Krug et al., 2002):

The nature of violent acts

The nature of violent acts can be (Krug et al., 2002; Soo, Kalmus, & Ainsaar, 2015):

  • Physical: intentional use of physical force against another person that can cause physical pain, injury or even death, as well as psychological damage. Physical violence is the most easily recognized form of violence because the victim often has visible physical injuries.
  • Sexual: against an adult is any conduct of sexual content through which another person is controlled, manipulated, or humiliated. The causes of sexual violence in a relationship lie in long-held patriarchal notions, according to which being married or in a relationship means mandatory submission to the partner’s sexual desires (see topic 4.4 for more information).
  • Psychological: a continuous verbal or non-verbal attack that damages another person emotionally and lowers his sense of self-worth. It is intentionally hurting another person, treating them as worthless, inadequate, unloved, and needed.

Despite the fact that violence has always been present, the world does not have to accept it as an inevitable part of the human condition. As long as there has been violence, there have also been systems – religious, philosophical, legal, and communal – which have grown up to prevent or limit it. None has been completely successful, but all have made their contribution to this defining mark of civilization (Krug et al., 2002)

Why individuals behave violently?

According to WHO (Butchart et al., 2004; Krug et al., 2002), no single factor explains the motives why some individuals behave violently toward others or why violence is more prevalent in some communities than in others. Violence is the result of the complex interplay of individual, interpersonal, social, cultural, and environmental factors. Understanding how these factors are related to violence is one of the important steps in the public health approach to preventing violence.

To understand why some subpopulations are at greater risk of violence, it is important to look across the levels of the social ecology (see Figure 4 in WHO approach (WHO, 2022)). The social ecological model encourages reflection on risk and protective factors at the individual, relationship, community, and societal levels, each of which influences and is influenced by the others.

  • Individual level: personal history and biological factors influence how individuals behave and their likelihood of becoming a victim or a perpetrator of violence. Among these factors are being a victim of child maltreatment, psychological or personality disorders, alcohol and/or substance abuse, and a history of behaving aggressively or having experienced abuse.
  • Personal relationships such as those with family, friends, intimate partners, and peers may also influence the risks of becoming a victim or perpetrator of violence. For example, a poor relationship with a parent and having violent friends may influence whether a young person engages in or becomes a victim of violence.
  • Community contexts in which social relationships occur (such as schools, neighbourhoods, and workplaces) also influence the likelihood of violence. Risk factors here may include the level of unemployment, population density and mobility, and the existence of a local drug or gun trade.
  • Societal factors influence whether violence is encouraged or inhibited. These include economic and social policies that maintain socioeconomic inequalities between people, the availability of weapons, and social and cultural norms such as those relating to male dominance over females, parental dominance over children, and cultural norms that endorse violence as an acceptable method to resolve conflicts (Butchart et al., 2004).

One of the guide’s objectives is to provide educators and families effective resources to raise awareness of values applied to sex and affections, such as gender equality. In this guide we have focused on interpersonal violence and to be more exact on the violence that is based on the discrimination over the sex or gender and as said in the so-called Istanbul Convention “historically unequal power relations between women and men, which have led to domination over, and discrimination against, women by men” (Council of Europe, 2011) and also bullying as act of discrimination, because of the diversities.

Diagrama Descripción generada automáticamente

Figure 4. Social ecological model for understanding and preventing violence (WHO, 2022)
Violence against children

In the Convention on Rights of the Child (United Nations, 1989) is said, that we all have a responsibility to protect children from violence – the “Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”

WHO states a key fact for violence against children (WHO, n.d.-a):

  • Violence against children includes all forms of violence against people under 18 years old, whether perpetrated by parents or other caregivers, peers, romantic partners, or strangers.
  • Globally, it is estimated that up to 1 billion children aged 2–17 years, have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect in the past year).
  • Experiencing violence in childhood impacts lifelong health and well-being.
  • Target 16.2 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against, and torture of, children”.
  • Evidence from around the world shows that violence against children can be prevented.

The types of violence against children are like the types of the violence against or between adults, but children, by reason of their physical and mental immaturity, are in the higher risk of abuse (Krug et al., 2002; WHO, n.d.-a):

  • Maltreatment (including violent punishment): involves physical, sexual, and psychological/emotional violence; and neglect of infants, children and adolescents by parents, caregivers, and other authority figures, most often in the home but also in settings such as schools and orphanages.
  • Bullying (including cyber-bullying): is unwanted aggressive behaviour by another child or group of children who are neither siblings nor in a romantic relationship with the victim. It involves repeated physical, psychological, or social harm, and often takes place in schools and other settings where children gather, and online.
  • Youth violence: it is concentrated among children and young adults aged 10–29 years. It occurs most often in community settings between acquaintances and strangers, includes bullying and physical assault with or without weapons (such as guns and knives), and may involve gang violence.
  • Intimate partner violence (or domestic violence): involves physical, sexual, and emotional violence by an intimate partner or ex-partner. Although males can also be victims, intimate partner violence disproportionately affects females. It commonly occurs against girls within child marriages and early/forced marriages. Among romantically involved but unmarried adolescents it is sometimes called “dating violence”.
  • Sexual violence: it includes non-consensual completed or attempted sexual contact and acts of a sexual nature not involving contact (such as voyeurism or sexual harassment, cybergrooming, stalking, doxing, revenge porn); acts of sexual trafficking committed against someone who is unable to consent or refuse; and online exploitation.
  • Emotional or psychological violence: it includes restricting a child’s movements, denigration, ridicule, threats and intimidation, discrimination, rejection, and other non-physical forms of hostile treatment.

When directed against girls or boys because of their biological sex or gender identity, any of these types of violence can also constitute gender-based violence.


Butchart, A., Phinney, A., Check, P., & Villaveces, A. (Eds.). (2004). Preventing violence: A guide to implementing the recommendations of the World report on violence and health. Geneva: Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention, WHO. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9241592079

Council of Europe. (2011). Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence [Data set]. https://doi.org/10.1163/2210-7975_HRD-9953-2014005

Krug, E. G., Dahlberg, L. L., Mercy, J. A., Zwi, A. B., & Lozano, R. (Eds.). (2002). World report on violence and health. Genève: Organisation mondiale de la santé. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9241545615

Soo, K., Kalmus, V., & Ainsaar, M. (2015). Eesti õpetajate roll laste internetikasutuse sotsiaalses vahendamises. Eesti Haridusteaduste Ajakiri. Estonian Journal of Education, 3(2), 156–185. https://doi.org/10.12697/eha.2015.3.2.06

United Nations. (2014). Guidelines for Producing Statistics on Violence against Women—Statistical Surveys. New York: United Nations. Retrieved from https://unstats.un.org/unsd/gender/docs/guidelines_statistics_vaw.pdf

WHO. (n.d.-a). Violence against children. Retrieved 29 September 2022, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-children

WHO. (2022). WHO Violence Prevention Unit: Approach, Objectives and Activities 2022-2026. WHO. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/who-violence-prevention-unit–approach–objectives-and-activities–2022-2026

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