Violence and Early Childhood and Child Development
Working Paper

Most children in the world are exposed to violence, either physical or psychological, and in many cases to both. Of particular concern for their development and well-being is the fact that the majority of the violence they experience originates in their own family environment. Using comparable data for 63 countries or areas, UNICEF (2014a) shows that on average about four in five children between ages 2 and 14 are subject to some form of violent discipline in their homes. Although in recent years there seems to be some decline in mother’s endorsement of physical discipline in the U.S. (Ryan et al. 2016), and several countries have prohibited all corporal punishment of children even within the household, the use of some forms of violence is still highly prevalent in most countries in the world—regardless of their income or development level. Furthermore, parental use of violence is legal in more than seventy five percent of countries in the world (Global Initiative, 2017).

Otros Autores: Matias Berthelon, María Isidora Palma

We study the effects of violence towards children on early childhood cognitive and noncognitive development. We use data from a longitudinal nationally representative survey of Chilean children to generate estimates of exposure to violence (verbal and/or physical), for two rounds of the survey conducted in 2010 and 2012, on two different outcomes: one that measures vocabulary development (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, PPVT) and one that measures socio-emotional development (Child Behavioral Check List, CBCL). We contribute to the literature by providing estimates which control for child-mother unobservable characteristics, improving on the literature that up to know has used cross-sectional data. We find that being exposed to some violence has a negative and significant effect on verbal skills of children. It also hinders socioemotional development of the child, by increasing her behavioral problem in all three of studied areas: internalization problems, externalization problems, as well as sleep problems. We also find that systematic exposure to violence over time decreases child development in both developmental areas. Finally, we study heterogeneous effects along three lines: child’s sex, age, and maternal education level. We find that violence affects girls in terms of their vocabulary development, and that both boys and girls increase their behavioral problems, with stronger effects among boys. We also find that the negative effects diminish as children get older, but they remain negative over the complete age range in the sample. In terms of mother’s education, we find stronger effects on children with lower educated mothers. Overall our estimations reveal that exposure to violence has significant negative association with the cognitive and noncognitive development of children.