Background: Most studies of children's exposure to violence focus on separate, relatively narrow categories of victimization (such as sexual abuse, physical maltreatment, or bullying), paying less attention to exposure to multiple forms of victimization.
Purpose: This study documents children's lifetime exposure to multiple victimization types (i.e., "poly-victimization") and examines the association between poly-victimization and extent of trauma symptomatology.
Methods: Analyses were based on telephone interviews conducted between January 2008 and May 2008 with a nationally representative sample of 4053 children aged 2-17 years and their caregivers.
Results: Exposure to multiple forms of victimization was common. Almost 66% of the sample was exposed to more than one type of victimization, 30% experienced five or more types, and 10% experienced 11 or more different forms of victimization in their lifetimes. Poly-victims comprise a substantial portion of the children who would be identified by screening for an individual victimization type, such as sexual assault or witnessing parental violence. Poly-victimization is more highly related to trauma symptoms than experiencing repeated victimizations of a single type and explains a large part of the associations between individual forms of victimization and symptom levels.
Conclusions: Studies focusing on single forms of victimization are likely to underestimate the full burden of victimization that children experience and to incorrectly specify the risk profiles of victims. Research, clinical practice, and intervention strategies are likely to improve with more comprehensive assessments of victimization exposure.
Copyright (c) 2010 American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.