Childhood Experiences of Violence and Abuse – a National Survey of Norwegian Adolescents 12 to 16 Years of Age

During the winter of 2019 we asked 10 000 Norwegian adolescents between 12 and 16 years of age about their upbringing, everyday life, mental health and experiences with violence and abuse. The results were published in a report [Norwegian] in October 2019, and have generated considerable media coverage and academic interest.  Since then, two follow-up surveys have been conducted (2020, 2021) with partly overlapping samples. This enables a longitudinal design assessing pre-pandemic and pandemic stability and change in health and violence and abuse experiences in a representative sample of Norwegian adolescents. 

2017 This project has been completed 2023

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The goal of this study was to contribute to the preventive work and research on violence towards youths and children. The study also presents findings related to the association between violence and abuse in childhood and mental and somatic health during adolescence. The participants that report violence and abuse experiences are also asked about their experiences with accessibility and support from health care services. 


The aim of the longitudinal study is to assess stability and change both at a person- and group level in child abuse and neglect, mental and somatic health, daily functioning and access to health care services.

The survey was conducted during school hours, and data collection took place during the months of January and February 2019. A total of 9,240 adolescents participated in the study. This constitutes 94.6 % of all students attending school the day of the survey, and 75.5 % of the total gross sample. The survey was web-based, and was administered on PCs or tablets in the classroom. A digital survey format allows for flexibility in follow-up questions, and specifically tailored questions for respondents yielding experiences with child abuse and neglect. The survey comprised five thematically distinct parts: 1) background variables, 2) experiences with child abuse and neglect (including physical violence, psychological violence, sexual abuse by adults and peers, and neglect), 3) health, well-being and quality of life, 4) help-seeking experiences, 5) daily functioning as it pertains to sleep and school. We made use of behavior specific questions which is the recommended survey methodology, also in research on child abuse and neglect.


An abbreviated version of the 2019 survey was administered remotely as a web-based survey in May/June 2020 (wave 2). Children’s experiences of the CORONA-virus preventive measures directed towards children were also assessed. 3564 12-16-yar-olds participated, for which 1439 had participated at the first data collection in 2019.

In May/June 2021, a third data collection was administered in schools, again as a web-based survey remotely administered. The same topics as covered in 2019 were included in the survey. 3540 12-16-year-olds participated, of which 746 adolescents had participated in 2020 (wave 2) and 521 adolescents participated at all three data collections (wave 1, 2 and 3).

The study was made possible because of a change in the Norwegian law of health research (Helseforskningsloven § 17) allowing children from the age of 12 years to participate in health research without parental or guardian consent. This can help to guarantee a child’s right to be heard, as stated in the Convention of the Rights of the Child article 12.  


The study was initiated and financed by what was formerly named theNorwegian Ministry of Children and Equality. The ethical approval for this study is made by REK (Regional committees for medical and health research ethics). The study satisfies the ethical requirements for responsible research on children. 


Sætren, S. S., Augusti, E. M., & Hafstad, G. S. (2020). Affective inhibitory control and risk for internalizing problems in adolescents exposed to child maltreatment: A population-based study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 130(2), 113-125. doi:10.1037/abn0000582

Hafstad, G. S., & Augusti, E. M. (Red.) (2019). Ungdoms erfaringer med vold og overgrep i oppveksten: En nasjonal undersøkelse av ungdom i alderen 12 til 16 år [Childhood experiences of violence and abuse: a national survey of Norwegian adolescents 12 to 16 years of age] Norwegian only. Oslo: Nasjonalt kunnskapssenter om vold og traumatisk stress. (Rapport 4/2019).