Children With Disabilities More Likely to Experience Violence

Increased risk of physical and sexual violence; lack of robust evidence leaves unanswered questions

THURSDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- Children with disabilities are more likely to be the victims of violence than their nondisabled peers, but the paucity of robust evidence leaves gaps in the field that need to be addressed, according to a study published online July 12 in The Lancet.

Lisa Jones, from the Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the prevalence and risk of violence against children with disabilities. Data were used from 16 and 11 studies, respectively, for the meta-analysis of prevalence and risk.

The researchers found that the pooled estimates of prevalence were 26.7 percent for combined violence measures and 20.4 and 13.7 percent, respectively, for physical and sexual violence. For combined violence measures, physical violence, and sexual violence, the odds ratios for pooled risk estimates were 3.68, 3.56, and 2.88, respectively. There was considerable heterogeneity across the studies (I² > 75 percent). The meta-regression analysis of the characteristics of the studies did not consistently explain the variations.

"The results of our review show that although awareness of the risks of violence against children with disabilities has increased, robust evidence continues to be scarce because of a lack of well-designed research studies, poor measurement of disability and violence, and insufficient assessment in studies of whether violence preceded the development of disabilities," the authors write. "These gaps need to be addressed through high-quality epidemiological research."

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