Violence affecting children and youth in Ethiopia: Insights from a qualitative study(Amharic)

Violence affecting children and youth in Ethiopia: Insights from a qualitative study.

Research Report

This brief, produced in partnership with UNICEF Ethiopia and Oak Foundation, is based on a sub-study on violence affecting children and youth carried out by Young Lives Ethiopia.  The full report, by Nardos Chuta, Virginia Morrow, Alula Pankhurst and Kirrily Pells, entitled 'Understanding Violence Affecting Children in Ethiopia: a Qualitative Study' is available here  The research that this paper is based on was possible thanks to the support of Oak Foundation. 

Violence affecting children and youth in Ethiopia: Insights from a qualitative study

Policy paper

The brief, produced in partnership with UNICEF Ethiopia and Oak Foundation, is based on a sub-study on violence affecting children and youth carried out by Young Lives Ethiopia.  The full report by Nardos Chuta, Virginia Morrow, Alula Pankhurst and Kirrily Pells entitled Understanding Violence Affecting Children in Ethiopia: A Qualitative Study is available here. The research that this paper is based on was possible thanks to the support of Oak Foundation.  

Understanding Violence Affecting Children in Ethiopia: a Qualitative Study

Poverty and inequality
Community change
Child protection
Working paper


This working paper describes a sub-study  by Young Lives Ethiopia on conceptualisations and understandings of violence affecting children and youth in three Ethiopian communities (one rural, two urban). Qualitative research was undertaken in May 2017, in two phases, with a total of 120 participants, using individual interviews and group discussions with children, young adults, caregivers, and professionals. 

The study found a range of terms for and definitions of violence, with differences between the rural (Oromiffa-speaking) area, where violence included harm caused by poverty, and the two urban (Amharic-speaking) sites, where violence included abuse and exploitation.  Some forms of violence were considered acceptable or unacceptable according to age and gender.  Children were said to be punished at home or at school for a range or reasons, and violence was widely understood to have lasting negative effects.  Children sought support from a range of people - mostly kin and friends, but occasionally from school clubs, headteachers, parent-teacher associations, and the police.  There were powerful barriers to reporting sexual assault and rape. 

Generally, participants reported that there has been a reduction in violence overall, though some violent practices continued, and there was a sense that gender-based violence had increased, especially harassment of older girls.  A marked intergenerational change was widely reported - especially in relation to reductions in the use of severe corporal punishment by parents - and was seen as a response to much greater awareness among caregivers of changes in the law and children's rights. 

From Childhood, through Adolescence to Adulthood in Ethiopia.

Since 2001, Young Lives has followed the lives of 3,000 children growing up in different contexts in Ethiopia, involving a younger cohort born in 2001-2 and an older cohort born in 1994-5. The younger cohort of children are now moving from adolescence into adulthood, while the older cohort have already become young adults. Young Lives has interviewed the children, their caregivers and community respondents over five rounds of surveys and four qualitative waves in 20 sites in five different regions.

So, what have we learnt about the lives of children over the years? And how can this information be useful for improving policies and programmes in Ethiopia? What are the differences for girls and boys, for children from urban and rural areas, and how have different household circumstances affected their life chances? When we return to interview them during this new fifth wave of qualitative research in mid- 2019, what will have changed? Where are they heading to now and what are their hopes and aspirations for the future?

The new fieldwork, supported by UNICEF, will be implemented in different urban and rural locations of Ethiopia and will compare the younger group who are still in late adolescence with the older group who are already adults. Findings will be able to illustrate different pathways for boys and girls from contrasting family backgrounds living in various settings. This will provide key insights into a range of important topics including transitions from school to work, migration, household formation, marriage and parenting and the different challenges children and youth face in contexts of food insecurity.

The new findings will inform Government policies on children and youth, feed into the evaluation of the current Growth and Transformation Plan and provide inputs into preparations for the next plan. The research will also inform UNICEF Ethiopia’s new Country Programme and other development partners’ plans to support the Government to prioritise children’s and youth issues in the journey to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Ethiopia’s efforts to attain lower middle-income status.

This new study will also allow Young Lives to further analyse the key findings from across 15 years of research to draw out key lessons into a series of short policy briefs.

The first brief will provide an overview across different areas of children’s lives. UNICEF has demonstrated that child poverty is multi-dimensional and that monetary indicators fail to convey the true depth of deprivations. The Young Lives study confirms this, and our findings address issues in various domains including poverty dynamics, nutrition, health and cognitive development, education and learning, wellbeing and child protection. This brief will include the 12 key messages highlighted in the Young Lives Ethiopia Country Report.

We then focus on four specific topics of policy concern through the development of additional policy briefs. First, we look at child marriage. Though the rate of child marriage is fortunately on the decrease in Ethiopia, it remains a major issue as the absolute number of girls affected is increasing, and little is known about what happens to girls who marry early or their offspring. We will synthesise findings from Young Lives about how early marriage and parenthood affects their lives, especially their education and work opportunities, their relations with their spouse and family and their scope for decision-making, notably about having children.

Second, violence is an area where children need further protection. Children of different ages, especially girls, face a range of risks including physical, emotional and sexual violence in their homes and communities and at school. We investigate where and why this happens, how children and adults respond, the services available and how they can be improved.

Third, we analyse early childhood care and education. How were children treated in early life and what effect has this had on their later development and chances? Young Lives reviewed current pre-school provision in Ethiopia and will use this to compare it with the experiences of the children we have been following. The new fieldwork will investigate how the Young Lives children, who are now adults, parent their own children; we will therefore be able to compare early education and care over three generations: the parents of the Young Lives children, the children who have become parents themselves and their own children.

Finally, we analyse the phase of adolescence and the struggles girls and boys face at this crucial age of transition as they seek to become independent, earn a living and form their own households and families.

The results of this research will be disseminated through briefs presented and distributed at the monthly seminar series of the Child Research and Practice Forum at the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth and at events on key international days relating to children and youth.

For wider coverage the briefs will be posted on the Young Lives and UNICEF websites, translated into Amharic to better reach a national audience and will be promoted through social media. The preliminary results of the new field research and the final versions of the briefs will be presented at a validation workshop at the end of 2019 and will provide important data for further analysis leading to insights useful for policy engagement in 2020, when Young Lives hopes to carry out a sixth survey.

This study is being undertaken by Oxford University and the Young Lives Project under the Policy Study Institute of Ethiopia. Members of the Reference Group include MoWCY, MoLSA, MOE, Save the Children, Child Justice Project, Consortium of Christian Relief & Development Associations and Addis Ababa University.

UNICEF will support financially the development of five different policy briefs using existing Young Lives’ data and the undertaking of the new qualitative wave of the Young Lives study.


Agenda: Children and youth facing violence in Africa


On 18-19 September the Federal Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, the Ethiopian Development Research Institute’s Ethiopian Centre for Child Research, the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) programme, Oak Foundation, University College London and Young Lives are hosting a workshop on ‘Children and Youth Facing Violence in Africa.’ It brings together researchers, policy actors and practitioners to share evidence on what we know and what we can do to address violence faced by children and youth from diverse contexts across the region. Please see the agenda for more details.

Mapping Report on Violence Affecting Children and Youth

Emebet Mulugeta
Working paper

This literature review was conducted with the aim of reviewing provisions on violence affecting children and youth  (VACAY) in Ethiopia in relevant policies, strategies and programmes; indicating gaps in studies and identifying key government, NGO and academic stakeholders working in the areas of VACAY.


Mapping of Stakeholders working on Violence affecting Children and Youth: Executive Summary

Emebet Mulugeta
Working paper

Fourteen organisations representing relevant ministries, international and regional NGOs were interviewed with the objectives of understanding stakeholders’ research interests in relation to violence affecting children and youth (VACAY) and identifying key evidence gaps and opportunities for policy influence. The mapping further aimed at identifying key entry points where Young Lives findings can be effectively disseminated to policy audiences, and providing a mapping of key government, NGO and academic stakeholders working in the field. This is an executive summary of the report.

A latent class approach to understanding patterns of peer victimization in four low-resource settings.

Child protection
Journal Article


Peer victimization is a common form of aggression among school-aged youth, but research is sparse regarding victimization dynamics in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Person-centered approaches have demonstrated utility in understanding patterns of victimization in the USA.


The authors aimed to empirically identify classes of youth with unique victimization patterns in four low- and middle-income country settings using latent class analysis (LCA).


The authors used data on past-year exposure to nine forms of victimization reported by 3536 youth (aged 15 years) from the Young Lives (YL) study in Ethiopia, India (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states), Peru, and Vietnam. Sex and rural/urban context were examined as predictors of class membership.


LCA supported a 2-class model in Peru, a 3-class model in Ethiopia and Vietnam, and a 4-class model in India. Classes were predominantly ordered by severity, suggesting that youth who experienced one form of victimization were likely to experience other forms as well. In India, two unordered classes were also observed, characterized by direct and indirect victimization. Boys were more likely than girls to be in the highly victimized (HV) class in Ethiopia and India. Urban contexts, compared with rural, conferred higher risk of victimization in Ethiopia and Peru, and lower risk in India and Vietnam.


The identified patterns of multiple forms of victimization highlight a limitation of common researcher-driven classifications and suggest avenues for future person-centered research to improve intervention development in low- and middle-income country settings.


adolescence; bullying; international; peer victimization

A latent class approach to understanding patterns of peer victimization in four low-resource settings Amanda J. Nguyen,Catherine Bradshaw, Lisa Townsend, Alden L. Gross, Judith Bass

Child Research & Practice Forum (CRPF) Monthly Seminar

Federal Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, Addis Ababa
Alula Pankhurst

The CRPF started in September 2010 with the main objectives of linking research, practice and policy. Young Lives Ethiopia currently coordinates the forum with logistical support from UNICEF. The forum holds a monthly lseminar where research on children is presented for a number of participants followed by debates and discussion.

This months presentations:


Combating Violence against Children in Africa: A Framework for Civil Society Advocacy by African Child Policy Forum (ACPF).

Violence against Children: A Review of Qualitative Evidence: Shimelis Tsegaye of ACPF and Alula Pankhurst and Nathan Nigussie of Young Lives Ethiopia.