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EvidenceEvidence Syntheses

Understanding the Linkages between Social Safety Nets and Childhood Violence: A Review of the Evidence from Low and Middle Income Countries

This review is timely as cash transfers have proven to be a powerful tool in tackling intimate partner violence (IPV). A large body of research shows that poverty in various forms contribute to childhood violence—indicating good potential for social protection to decrease violence at the margin.  Non-contributory social safety nets (SSNs), including cash and in-kind transfers, public works and vouchers or fee waivers, are typically designed to provide regular and predicable support to poor populations, and have become a popular policy tool to address poverty, vulnerability and inequality. There are numerous arguments in favour of SSNs, including their documented impacts across a range of poverty and wellbeing outcomes, and their ability to be cost effectively implemented at scale. 

This paper reviews empirical evidence from 14 SSN evaluations in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to answer the question: could investments in SSN programming, including cash transfers, reduce (or prevent) violence against children? 

The authors report diverse impacts of SSNs on childhood violence, with no significant negative impacts found. Some promising results include delayed sexual debut and reduced numbers of sexual partners amongst adolescents, but more research is needed. The authors suggest that although there are promising case studies reflecting this recommendation, there is a long way to go to understand if the “average” SSN has potential to reduce childhood violence (and if so, which programme design and implementation features, which types of violence and among which populations).

Date published
  • 2017
  • Amber Peterman
  • Anastasia Neijhoft
  • Sarah Cook
  • Tia M Palermo
Published by Health Policy and Planning