Violence and Injury Prevention

Child maltreatment ("child abuse")

UN Photo/A Jongen

Approximately 20% of women and 5–10% of men report being sexually abused as children, while 25–50% of all children report being physically abused. The lifelong consequences of child maltreatment include impaired physical and mental health, poorer school performance, and job and relationship difficulties. Ultimately, child maltreatment can contribute to slowing a country's economic and social development.

Publications and campaign materials

Preventing child maltreatment: a guide to taking action and generating evidence

Preventing violence through the development of safe, stable and nurturing relationships between children and their parents and caregivers


World report on violence and health, Chapter 3, Child abuse and neglect by parents and other caregivers

WHO's child maltreatment prevention objectives are to:

  • raise awareness of the immediate and long-term health consequences of child maltreatment
  • highlight preventability
  • prioritize child maltreatment prevention in international and national health and development agendas
  • reduce child maltreatment by supporting countries to increase capacity and establish child maltreatment prevention policies and programmes
  • expand the global evidence base to cover more low- and middle-income countries

WHO activities for the prevention of child maltreatment carried out by the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability currently cover:

Development of Guidelines for the health sector response to child maltreatment

Data collection and research

  • The WHO Global Burden of Disease project includes estimates of deaths, morbidity, and Disabilty-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) due to child maltreatment.

Policy, capacity and programme development

Child maltreatment prevention course

Parenting for Lifelong Health (PLH)

  • Work on the development and testing of a suite of affordable evidence-based parenting programmes for children aged 0-17 to prevent violence in low-resource settings is under way.

Readiness Assessment for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment (RAP-CM)

  • Readiness Assessment for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment (RAP-CM) : A method for assessing the readiness – or capacity – of countries, provinces, and communities to implement child maltreatment prevention programmes on a large scale

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) refer to some of the most intensive and frequently occurring sources of stress that children may suffer early in life, such as multiple types of abuse, neglect, and witnessing violence between parents or caregivers. ACE have been shown to be associated with serious health problems later in life, problems such as alcoholism, depression, eating disorders, unsafe sex, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. The ACE International Questionnaire (ACE-IQ) is intended to measure ACE in all countries, and the association between them and risk behaviours in later life.


  • WHO publishes and disseminates evidence on child maltreatment prevention and campaign materials
  • WHO acts as the Secretariat of the Violence Prevention Alliance which has a significant focus on child maltreatment prevention.


  • Leading international experts convened in Mexico City in November 2013 and in Cambridge, UK in September 2014 to discuss how the fields of violence prevention and early child development could be better integrated.