Polyvictimization (multiple victimizations of one child)
Some children are the unfortunate targets of many different kinds of victimization at the hands of a variety of offenders over a short period of time. For example, they experience physical and emotional abuse by caregivers, assaults and harassment by peers, sexual vicimizations by acquaintances and strangers and are exposed to crime and violence in their communities and neighborhoods.
- In a CCRC study, 10% of children in a national sample reported four or more diferent kinds of victimization in a single year.
- Once children become poly-victims, their risk for additional victimization tends to remain very elevated.
- Poly-victims have extremely high levels of traumatic stress symptoms. The undetected presence of such miltiple victimization exposure among research samples of children identified because of a single victimization type (victims of sexual abuse or bullying) may be what accounts for a considerable portion of the association between these individual victimizations and traumatic symptom measures.
- If researchers and practitioners can more effectively identify poly-victims and those on the path to becoming poly-victims, they might be able to direct prevention resources to forestall the most serious victimization careers and most adversely affected children.
Source: Finkelhor, D., Ormrod, R. K., & Turner, H. A. (2007). Poly-victimization: A neglected component in child victimization trauma. Child Abuse & Neglect, 31, 7-26. (CV91)
Turner, H.A., Finkelhor, D. and Ormord, R.K. (2010)
This paper hypothesizes that a more complete assessment of the number of different victimization types to which children are exposed will reveal a group of youth who account for both a high proportion of the total victimization burden and a considerable part of the explained variance in distress symptoms. Building on earlier research, the current study employs the concept of “poly-victimization” to describe this highly victimized group of children in an effort to demonstrate the detrimental consequences of poly-victimization for child well-being.
Finkelhor, D., Ormrod, R., Turner, H.A., and Holt, M. (2009)
Some children, whom we have labeled poly-victims, experience very high levels of victimizations of different types. This article finds support for a conceptual model suggesting that there may be four distinct pathways to becoming such a polyvictim: (a) residing in a dangerous community, (b) living in a dangerous family, (c) having a chaotic, multiproblem family environment, or (d) having emotional problems that increase risk behavior, engender antagonism, and compromise the capacity to protect oneself. Poly-victimization onset was also disproportionately likely to occur in the year prior to children’s 7th and 15th birthday, corresponding roughly to the entry into elementary school and high school. The identification of such pathways and the ages of high onset should help practitioners design programs for preventing vulnerable children from becoming poly-victims.
Finkelhor, D., Ormrod, R. K., and Turner, H. A. (2007)
Children victimized in different ways and in different contexts are more affected than children repeatedly victimized by just one person or in just one context. This concept of “poly-victimization” has relevance to the assessment of victimization trauma. Our key hypothesis is that poly-victimization accounts for a considerable portion of explainable variation in traumatic symptoms. We show that relationships between individual victimization types and traumatic symptoms may be misrepresented when a child’s broader victimization profile is not taken into account.