Understanding Violence Affecting Children in Ethiopia: a Qualitative Study

Nardos Chuta
Virginia Morrow
Kirrily Pells
Poverty and inequality
Child protection
Community change
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. 

Longitudinal Research with the children of the Millennium. Highlights and overall key messages

Kiros Birhanu
Poverty and inequality
Early childhood development
Research Report


This brief, produced in partnership with UNICEF Ethiopia, draws on 15 years longitudinal research by Young Lives Ethiopia and the Country Report, highlighting the context in which this research was conducted, cross-country findings, and key implications for policy and practice. The full report is available on the Young Lives Ethiopia website here https://www.younglives-ethiopia.org/node/850. The research brief is one of the five briefs produced under the joint work of Young Lives and UNICEF.  The remaining four briefs, to be published in coming months, are on early marriage, early childhood development and education, violence and adolescence. 

Tracing the consequences of child poverty - reflections from co-author Andrew Dawes on findings from 15 years of research

After several years in the making, ‘Tracing’, as we authors have come to call the volume, is published. What a journey it has been! Tracing draws on over 800 research papers, fact sheets, country reports and other outputs generated since the inception of the Young Lives study in 2001.

When asked by Jo Boyden to assist in this venture, I asked myself how on earth do we extract and synthesise Young Lives findings gathered over 16 years, to produce a concise account of the impact of poverty on children’s lives in four countries, that is at once scientifically rigorous, of interest to researchers in diverse fields, and perhaps most importantly, provides evidence that assists policy makers in their efforts to improve children’s lives?

Much of the answer lies in the deep knowledge of the project held by authors Jo Boyden and Paul Dornan who together with the Young Lives team, knew where to drill down to construct a powerful story of what matters in children’s lives both in relation to compounding disadvantage or supporting positive growth and development. 

Both the Young Lives International Advisory Board and the ‘Tracing’ Advisory Group, or TAG as we called it, challenged us to go beyond the ‘business as usual’ child poverty story and mine for nuggets that would shift the policy and intervention discourse. 

Taking this advice, we were able to demonstrate that while particular aspects of disadvantage are essential to address (e.g. under-nutrition; poor quality schooling), it is intersecting inequalities and disadvantages that are particularly powerful in undermining human development from before infancy through adolescence and youth. These include the poorest and rural children who are also members of marginalised groups (e.g. ethnic, caste or language), with less educated parents. Policies therefore need to pay particular attention to children who face these intersecting challenges.

A further example of the impact of intersecting disadvantage is evident from Latent Growth Modelling (LGM) an approach I discuss in an article here with Colin Tredoux. In Tracing, LGM traces the consequences of disadvantage in early and middle childhood and adolescence for the development of maths and language skills (vocabulary and reading comprehension). Modelling shows how children from poorer backgrounds with less educated caregivers either don't attend a preschool or attend one that is likely poor quality. That missed opportunity is associated with weaker quantitative and language skills by age five enduring through childhood.

A much-overlooked consequence of poverty is its potential impact on the psychological well-being of primary caregivers. LGM shows how the mental state of caregivers affected by poverty is related to child growth in the early years; those more negatively affected are likely to have children with stunted growth. That in turn compromises cognitive skills in both early and middle childhood. New challenges emerge in early adolescence for children who have to work to assist poor families - they have less time for schooling and studying. So a poor start compounded by other demands in later years contributes to poor skills development by adolescence. This in turn is likely to compromise education outcomes and ultimately the chance to enter further education, training and decent work. 

Patterns such as this are evident throughout the Young Lives data and are what we refer to as Developmental Cascades, a term drawn from the work of Ann Masten and Dante Cicchetti  As LGM shows, cascades occur both within and across stages of childhood development and build upon one another so that their effects accumulate to shape developmental outcomes over time.

For example, the study measured children’s height for their age at each Round. This enabled us to discover a very important nugget; evidence of both growth recovery and faltering during middle childhood. A proportion of children whose growth was stunted in early childhood showed normal growth in middle childhood, while some who had shown normal early growth, were stunted later. Thus early growth status is not necessarily fixed, indicating the potential for remedial intervention later in development. Particularly important is evidence that recovery is associated with cognitive gains in some children. 

Another example comes from the qualitative data analysed by Gina Crivello and Ginny Morrow. The TAG encouraged us to seek examples of children who were ‘bucking the trend’ of expected negative outcomes despite their disadvantages. What was it about these children and their circumstances that made the difference, and how could this information be used to provide more enabling environments for children placed at risk by poverty? Gina and Ginny’s work, discussed here, found that it was a combination of mutually reinforcing factors such as child characteristics and enabling environments in the family and beyond which together diverted children at risk into positive pathways. They also found that to maintain this positive Development Cascade, the children needed sustained support through young adulthood. 

In sum, Tracing has synthesized evidence from across the study and combined it with life course longitudinal analyses that permit examination of the cumulative influence of sources of risk, protection and opportunity from across childhood and through adolescence. This approach has allowed us to consider the implications of these findings for child-focused policy and programmes as low- and middle-income countries strive to overcome intergenerational poverty and inequality and meet the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals. We will share Tracing’s findings with policy makers and practitioners in government and non-government settings to help inform debates on how best to secure children’s well-being, development and rights. 

Tracing the consequences of child poverty is available digitally https://bit.ly/2TUOQRY and in print https://bit.ly/2U8vjwz.  For news of Young Lives you can follow us on Twitter @yloxford, Facebook, and check our website www.younglives.org.


Tracing the consequences of child poverty; Evidence from the Young Lives study in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam

Submitted by remote on Wed, 03/27/2019 - 12:37

A new book from Young Lives draws on over 15 years of research to explore how poverty shapes children’s wellbeing and development and how data can inform social policy and practice approaches to improving outcomes for poorer children.

Using life course analysis from the Young Lives study of 12,000 children growing up in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam over the past 15 years, the book draws on evidence on two cohorts of children, from 1 to 15 and from 8 to 22.

The Young Lives animation: Tracing the consequences of child poverty

We are delighted to share the Young Lives animation 'Tracing the consequences of child poverty'. The animation offers an overview of our longitudinal study of child poverty across four countries, over 15 years, with 12,000 children. 

It captures some of the key study findings and implications for policy and programming to explore how best to secure and sustain healthy development for children growing up in poverty around the world. Please find the animation below and on our YouTube channel, and engage in the virtual conversation on Twitter @yloxford with #YLPoverty and #tracingtheconsequences 

Young Lives child poverty conference captures 'the story of the first part of this century'

Submitted by remote on Mon, 08/13/2018 - 09:54

On Wednesday 27th June, more than 100 researchers, policymakers and practitioners joined the Young Lives team at the 'Young Lives, child poverty and lessons for the SDGs' conference held at the British Academy in London to mark the first 15 years of the study, to share and debate findings so far, and to help outline what governments and donors can do to address the disadvantages children face. 

Young Lives Ethiopia: Lessons from longitudinal research with the children of the Millennium

Poverty and inequality
Summative Output

The Young Lives Ethiopia Country Report presents results from a fifteen-year longitudinal study, which followed two cohorts of children in 20 sites selected from the five main regions of Ethiopia, from 2002 to 2016, as a component of a larger multi-country project. The research followed one cohort as they grew from infancy to adolescence (aged one to 15), and the second as they grew from early childhood to early adulthood (aged 8 to 22). The study relates conditions early in the lives of children to later outcomes, and so improves understanding of the effects of poverty on children’s life trajectories. It also provides information on the effects of policies and changes on the lives of children, and offers evidence-based guidance for policies to improve children’s chances of developing into integrated and productive members of society.

The report first outlines the Young Lives project and the context in which the Ethiopian study took place, including the engagement between researchers and the Ethiopian government’s efforts to improve the lives of its children. It presents key findings and policy implications on four main areas of study: poverty dynamics; child health and nutrition; education and learning; and wellbeing and child protection. The report concludes with implications of the findings for future policy,and the benefits of continuing the research.

A summary of this report is available here. For related materials, follow us on Twitter @yloxford with #YLLearnings.


Poverty and Intergenerational Change: Preliminary Findings from the Round 5 Survey in Ethiopia

Poverty and inequality
Country report
Round 5 Fact Sheets

Round 5 Longitudinal Poverty and Intergenerational Change Fact Sheet

This fact sheet presents findings from the fifth round of the Young Lives survey of  children in Ethiopia in 2016. Young Lives is  a longitudinal study of childhood poverty  that has followed two cohorts of children born seven years apart since 2002. This fact sheet reports on trends in household living standards – measured by a wealth index – and movement into and out of poverty for the Younger Cohort households in 2016 (Round 5 survey) compared to 2002 (Round 1 survey). It also reports on intergenerational mobility between parents and children in terms of education and health for the Older Cohort (aged 22 in 2016). There have been noticeable movements into and out of poverty over time. Of the 1,741 Younger Cohort households interviewed in all five rounds, 584 (33%) were in the bottom tercile (i.e. poor) in 2002, but only 12% of these households have been persistently in the bottom wealth tercile over the five rounds from 2002 to 2016.

Key Findings:

  • Indices of the wealth index (housing quality, access to services, and ownership of consumer durables) improved significantly between 2002 and 2016. The main driver was ownership of consumer durables which more than doubled over that period. Although the gap in terms of wealth between urban and rural areas decreased, in 2016 the levels of wealth index in the rural sites are still low compared to the urban sites.

  • Access to services (clean drinking water, sanitation, and electricity) has also improved. However, regional disparities persist with greater access to these services for urban households.

  • Environmental and economic shocks were tracked across the period; despite a decreasing trend, rural households were more vulnerable to environmental shocks and urban households slightly more vulnerable to economic shocks. In 2009 almost all households were exposed to at least one economic shock, probably due to higher inflation.

  • There has been noticeable intergenerational progress in attaining higher school grades. 24% of 22-year-olds reached post-secondary education compared to 6% of their parents, with the greatest improvements for better-off households and those in urban sites.

Beyond Monetary Poverty Analysis: The Dynamics of Multidimensional Child Poverty in Developing Countries

Poverty and inequality
Journal Article

This article investigates transitions in monetary and multidimensional poverty using the 2006 and 2009 Young Lives surveys in Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Vietnam. While the headcount ratio in both measures of poverty decreases over time, author Hoolda Kim finds that there is only a small overlap between the groups in monetary and multidimensional poverty in either or both waves. Kim also notes that children remaining in monetary poverty are more likely to stay in multidimensional poverty. However, children escaping from monetary poverty do not always exit from multidimensional poverty. The results suggest the need to go beyond traditional monetary poverty indicators to understand and monitor poverty dynamics among children.

Access the article here.

Heterogeneity in the impact of drought on child human capital - evidence from Ethiopia

Poverty and inequality
Poverty and shocks
Human capital
Student paper

Children in the developing world are routinely exposed to drought shocks and other climatic hazards. Such shocks can have lasting effects in adulthood if they affect investments in child human capital. In this study, I investigate the impact of two recent episodes of drought in Ethiopia on two measures of cognitive outcomes: Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) scores and Mathematics Test scores. I use data from the Young Lives study on children followed at ages 8-10 and 12-14. Using both panel data and cross-sectional estimation techniques, I test for differences in drought impact by cognitive skill and by age. I also explore the channels of drought impact by estimating separate equations for the effect of drought on child anthropometry, enrolment and child’s time allocated to different activities. Finally, I test for heterogeneity in drought impacts by investigating variations in shock-coping mechanisms among different demographic groups.

The evidence suggests that drought affects cognitive skills differently – quantitative skills appear to be affected more adversely. However, these differences become less pronounced as children grow older. Broadly, cognitive skills are more likely to be affected adversely at adolescence than at the younger age of 8-10. Adjustments in time spent at school are a major channel affecting cognitive scores; however, evidence on the role of anthropometry and enrolment is much weaker. In terms of heterogeneity, for households specializing predominantly in agriculture, cognitive scores are less adversely affected during drought episodes. Cognitive outcomes are also disproportionately affected for male children, especially first-borns, who fare the worst. On the policy front, failing to take the vulnerability of specific demographic groups into account may translate to deepening poverty traps. Results also suggest that children’s aspirations have the potential to play a major role in buffering the impact of drought, however this needs further exploration.