Childhood exposure to physical and emotional violence over a 57-year period in Sweden

Scand J Public Health. 2022 Dec;50(8):1172-1178. doi: 10.1177/14034948211023634. Epub 2021 Jun 24.


Aims: The aim of the present study was to examine the prevalence of childhood experiences of physical violence (CPV) and emotional violence (CEV) at the hands of parents over a 57-year period among adults born between 1937 and 1993.

Methods: In 2012, a survey among women and men aged 18-74 years in Sweden was undertaken to examine the lifetime prevalence of physical, psychological and sexual violence and associations with current health in adulthood. Questionnaires were based on the Adverse Childhood Experiences study and a previous national survey of violence exposure. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse the frequency of exposure to CPV and CEV, and changes over time were analysed using analysis of variance and logistic regression.

Results: A total of 10,337 individuals participated (response rates: 56% for women and 48% for men). CPV decreased significantly over the time period studied, particularly for those born after 1983. This decrease was more evident for male respondents. Throughout the time period studied, the proportion of women reporting CEV was higher than for men. Among both genders there was a steady rise in CEV rates from those born in the late 1930s to those born in the mid-1980s, after which there was a decline that was more marked for men.

Conclusions: A significant group of children in Sweden experience violence at the hands of parents. However, our data corroborate previous national studies that children's exposure to violence has decreased. Clear gender differences indicate that these changes have affected girls and boys differently.

Keywords: Child physical abuse; child emotional abuse; child maltreatment; corporal punishment; epidemiology; gender differences; prevalence studies; primary prevention; survey studies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Offenses*
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Violence