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Study summarised:

Violence against children in South Africa: the cost of inaction to society and the economy

The summary:

In order to investigate the social and health impact of experiences of childhood violence in South Africa, the authors undertook a costing study to investigate the consequences of violence against children on the South African society and economy. The authors included various publications in their analysis.


Violence against children, if not prevented, can deplete children’s cognitive capital, such as communication, problem solving and decision making, which determine their ability to work and contribute to the economy. The findings of the study further indicate that violence against children show that preventing children from experiencing and witnessing violence can help to strengthen the health of a nation by ensuring children reach their full potential and drive the country’s economy and growth.

Prevention is better than cure and as such all stake holders need to act in the best interests of the child. The paper also discusses ways in which preventing and ending violence against children may be prioritised in South Africa through, for instance, intersectoral collaboration and improving routine monitoring data, such as through the sustainable development goals

Significant findings?
If sexual violence were prevented against South African children:

  • Depression in adult women and anxiety in South Africa could be reduced by 6%.
  • Alcohol abuse could be reduced by 7% in men and 10% in women.
  • Drug abuse in the entire population could be re- duced by 14%.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases in the entire population could be reduced by 3% and in women by 8%.
  • HIV in women could be reduced by 5%.
  • Interpersonal violence could be reduced by 3% in men and 7% in women.
  • Self-harm could be reduced by 12% in the entire population.

The following reductions could be made if children did not experience neglect:

  • depression by 16% in men and 9% in women
  • anxiety by 8% in the entire population
  • alcohol abuse by 14% in women
  • drug abuse by 4% in men
  • STDs by 6% in women.

The following reductions could be made if children did not witness family violence:

  • anxiety by 13% in the entire population
  • interpersonal violence by 16% in both men and women.

How can you relate this to practice?

  • The long term negative outcomes for children who were exposed to violence during childhood are devastating and cannot be totally healed with therapy. Prevention is better than cure.
  • Children exposed to violence during childhood may not contribute effectively towards the economy as those who are not exposed to violence.
  • The costs of inaction –thus leaving a child in a violent -is very high and not in the short and long-term interest of children or the future of a country.
  • You can use this article as a reference to support intervention in cases of child abuse and neglect, and cases in which children are exposed to family violence 🡪 by highlighting the negative outcomes if nothing is done.