Jamaican children fed a “daily diet” of violence

The cases are in the news almost every day. A child beaten with a machete. A child murdered brutally. A child sexually assaulted.

Violence against Jamaican children – in all its forms – is a horrifying epidemic. Violence that is passed from generation to generation. Violence that is condoned as “discipline”. Violence that is widely accepted as just “part of our culture”.

Violence passed from generation to generation

This week, across the world, UNICEF is giving alarming insight on the violence that millions of children experience, with the launch of the newest #ENDviolence report, “A Familiar Face: Violence in the Lives of Children and Adolescents.”

One of the report’s many bone-chilling statistics: every 7 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent is killed by an act of violence.

Child murders up 36 per cent this year

Here on our shores, our child murder rate is up by 36 per cent to date this year, compared to the same period last year. Murders of girls have increased threefold. Homicide is a leading cause of deaths among adolescents in this region of the world.

“A Familiar Face” examines the issue of child homicide, as well as violence against young children in their homes, sexual violence against girls and boys, and violence in schools.

Children face sexual and physical abuse at home

We launched our report locally along with another global report by Know Violence, presented by Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan, who specializes in child health and development. The Jamaica Crime Observatory also shared their latest data (2016) on children and violence.

Together, the reports present a staggering picture of what it’s like to be a Jamaican child growing up with what Professor Samms-Vaughan describes as a “daily diet” of violence.

Stressed parents abuse children

It starts in the home, with very young, defenseless children. Worldwide, some 300 million (3 in 4) children aged 2-4 are violently disciplined by their parents/caregivers on a regular basis. In Jamaica, 8 out of 10 children ages 2-14 in Jamaica experience some form of violent discipline.

Much of this happens when parents are angry, stressed and frustrated – and don’t know how else to curb unwanted behaviour. Much of it results from parents not knowing what is normal behaviour at various stages of a child’s development.

Violence continues within our schools

Violence continues at school. 1 in 2 school-age children (732 million) between ages 6 and 17 live in countries where corporal punishment at school is not fully prohibited. Jamaica is one of them. And our children face another fear at school: 6 in 10 Jamaican students say they have been bullied at some point in their lives.

Then there is the predatory sexual violence that steals dignity, trust and self-esteem and leaves children with lasting emotional wounds. Worldwide, around 15 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have experienced forced sex in their lifetime. In Jamaica, 24 per cent of girls ages 10-15 say their first experience of sex was forced.

Alternative approaches to end violence

As long as we live in a society that teaches children to solve problems through violence, we can expect these trends to continue. All forms of violence are connected. There is a tremendous amount of work that needs to happen if we are to ever break the cycle of violence.

UNICEF continues to support partners such as the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), which takes a violence prevention approach in gang-dominated communities; Fight for Peace, which uses combat sports to pull youths away from gangs; Eve for Life which empowers girls and young women who have suffered from sexual abuse and HIV; and the School Wide Positive Behaviour Intervention and Support (SWPBIS) framework, which helps schools and students model positive behaviour to reduce violence and improve grades.

Greater action needed by Government

These programmes are delivered mainly by non-governmental organizations and limited to a small number of communities. To meaningfully address violence against children we need programmes like these to be fully supported by government and rolled out on a national level.

Urgent attention is needed to:

  • Reduce the rate of child homicide;
  • Strengthen social services for children who have experienced violence, particularly victims of sexual violence;
  • Fully outlaw the use of violent discipline in schools;
  • Educate children, parents, teachers, and community members to recognise violence in all its many forms and to use alternative non-violent methods of discipline; and
  • Collect better disaggregated data on violence against children.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with “required.”


  1. Well said i truly agreed with everything that i read, stress frastration and anger helps contribute to all theae abused, the government need to make things possible for us as parents to be educated about parenting guideline and helps to teach us how to control our anger, which I’m doing through the Child Development Agent. But as a parents of 3 children i stand up against child abuse, these children’s is our future Lawyer, Doctors, Teacher,

  2. You are absolutely right. Child abuse is becoming a serious problem day by day. Jamaican students are suffering a lot from this. Society needs to come forward for their help and rights. Not only the Jamaican students are affecting from this, but also many other students are going through the same situation. Know more on this here: ESD School