Publication Type: Journal article
Year: 2023
Author(s): Cuartas, J., Bhatia, A., Carter, D., Cluver, L., Coll, C., Draper, C.E., Donger, E., Gardner, F., Grueso, H., Herbert, B. and Lachman, J.
Unit: SaVI
Journal: The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health
DOI: S2352-4642(23)00137-2

Abstract: "The existential threat posed by climate change is growing. Human activities and inadequate action by governments, corporations, and global organisations continue to lead to unprecedented levels of environmental stress. These effects are disproportionately high in low-income and middleincome countries and communities facing pre-existing inequities and vulnerabilities. Given the consequences of environmental crises for human societies, the climate crisis is a form of structural violence against current and future generations. 1 Yet despite notable exceptions, 2 minimal discussion is taking place on how the climate crisis puts children at increased risk of physical and emotional violence, neglect, and exploitation. Violence against children is a major barrier to human flourishing and societal progress. All forms of violence can harm children’s brain and skill development, physical and mental health, learning, and economic outcomes, and perpetuate trauma, poverty, and conflict cycles. 3 Existing evidence from extreme weather events and previous crises elucidates pathways that link the climate crisis to increased violence against children. Direct effects of the climate crisis on water and land availability, and the destruction of infrastructure, lead to heightened conflict for scarce resources and forced displacement, which are risk factors for children’s exposure to forced labour, sexual exploitation, recruitment into armed groups, child marriage, and abandonment. For example, parents and children in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, and Somalia were forced to travel longer distances and to leave children unattended while searching for water and food amid droughts, which were followed by increased maltreatment and exploitation. 2, 4 The acute shocks and cumulative effects of the climate crisis on livelihoods can also trigger widespread mental health challenges in caregivers and children, including depression and anxiety. 5, 6 In turn, these challenges can erode the cognitive and emotional resources caregivers require to protect and respond to children’s needs, including their attention, self regulation, and capacity to communicate positively with children. Indeed, studies document increases in physical and psychological maltreatment of children following disasters, heatwaves, and other crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic."

Citation: Cuartas, J., Bhatia, A., Carter, D., Cluver, L., Coll, C., Draper, C.E., Donger, E., Gardner, F., Grueso, H., Herbert, B. and Lachman, J.(2023). The climate crisis and violence against children. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.