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Interrupting the intergenerational transmission of violence: a mixed-methods longitudinal study in South Africa

Project description

Intergenerational violence transmission – findings from South Africa

Children exposed to violence are at heightened risk for later victimisation and/or perpetration of interpersonal and self-directed violence. As such, violence against children can affect the next generations. With this in mind, researchers are studying the mechanisms of intergenerational violence transmission and potential prevention in regions with high rates of interpersonal violence such as sub-Saharan Africa. The EU-funded INTERRUPT_VIOLENCE project will develop the first empirically-generated theoretical scheme on intergenerational violence transmission. It will compare data from interviews with South African teens conducted a decade ago with new interviews with the original participants as well as their children. It will also explore the impact of prevalent structural risk factors such as poverty, limited access to public services and the HIV epidemic.


Violence Violence is an important societal challenge and associated with poor health outcomes across the life-course. Studies find consistent associations between childhood violence exposure and risk for victimisation and perpetration in adulthood, particularly across generations. Thus far, we lack an evidence-base to understand the underlying mechanisms of intergenerational violence transmission as well as potential for prevention in regions with high rates of interpersonal violence such as sub-Saharan Africa. This marks a major evidence gap and a compelling need.

This study will use a mixed methods approach to develop the first-known empirically-generated theoretical framework on intergenerational violence transmission. It will do so using three approaches never utilised in the region: 1) using data from a 1-year longitudinal study of 1800 adolescents in South Africa (interviewed in 2010/11 and 2011/2012) it will re-trace original participants, re-interview them as young adults aged 20-27, recruit their children (n~211) and previous primary caregivers (n~540) and conduct in-depth qualitative work on a sub-sample of families to identify mechanisms of violence transmission across generations and genders, 2) it will investigate the effect of the prevalent structural risk factors poverty, poor service access and delivery and the HIV epidemic on violence transmission, and 3) it will examine the effect of protective interventions and policies using quasi-experimental methods.

This study will transform our understanding of the causes, effects and potential prevention mechanisms of intergenerational violence transmission through cutting-edge social science research. This is an ambitious research agenda of a complex behaviour and is characterised by methodological and theoretical innovation never used in the region before. The methodology presents high risks balanced by the potential for ground-breaking scientific and social impact for violence research and prevention.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 894 993,75
EH8 9YL Edinburgh
United Kingdom

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Scotland Eastern Scotland Edinburgh
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 894 993,75

Beneficiaries (3)