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Forms of Violence: **Deprivation**

11/03/2011  | Child Rights International Network



What is deprivation?

Deprivation may be defined as a “state of observable and demonstrable disadvantage relative to the local community or the wider society or nation to which an individual, family or group belongs” (Townsend, 1987: 125). 

Deprivation has been distinguished from poverty because it refers to specific physical, environmental and social conditions, rather than general resource deficits. A person’s own feeling of deprivation arises out of the comparison of his or her situation with those of better off persons (Chakravarty and Mukherjee, 1999). However, this distinction between poverty and deprivation is not always clear. For example, child poverty is sometimes measured in terms of deprivation. This approach “establishes a set of basic services and capabilities and then measures the number of children who do not have access to this same ‘basket’ of services and capabilities” (Minujin et al., 2006: 482).

UNICEF’s working definition of child poverty, presented in The State of the World’s Children, is: “Children living in poverty [are those who] experience deprivation of the material, spiritual and emotional resources needed to survive, develop and thrive, leaving them unable to enjoy their rights, achieve their full potential or participate as full and equal members of society” (UNICEF, 2005). While some authors mark a clear definitional boundary between deprivation and poverty, others refer to the two terms interchangeably.

Deprivation may also take many different forms. People can be said to be deprived if they lack the types of diet, clothing, housing, household facilities and fuel and environmental, educational, working and social conditions, activities and facilities which are customary, or at least widely encouraged and approved, in the societies to which they belong (Townsend, 1987: 125).

What does it have to do with violence?

There is not a clear, unambiguous link between deprivation and violence against children. However, international research has identified links between poverty and child neglect and/or emotional or physical abuse (see, for example, Frederick and Goddard, 2007; Sedlak, 1997). However, while there may be an association between poverty and certain forms of violence, this does not mean that poverty causes violence. The vast majority of families living in poverty do not maltreat their children and parents (NSPCC, 2008). As part of a child rights approach to poverty, which addresses non-economic as well as economic indicators of poverty, outcome measures may include exposure to violence (see, for example, UNICEF, 2007).

For more resources on deprivation, click here.



Chakravarty S. and Mukherjee D. (1999), ‘Measures of deprivation and their meaning in terms of social satisfaction’, Theory and Decision, 47, pp. 89-100.

Frederick, J. & Goddard, C. (2007), ‘Exploring the Relationship between Poverty, Childhood

Adversity and Child Abuse from the Perspective of Adulthood’, Child Abuse Review, 16, pp. 323-341.

Minujin A., Delamonica E., Davidziuk A. and Gonzalez E. (2006), ‘The definition of child poverty: A discussion of concepts and measurements’, Environment and Urbanization, 18, pp. 481.

NSPCC (2008), Poverty and Child Maltreatment: Child Protection Research Briefing, NSPCC: London. Accessible at:

Sedlak, Andrea (1997), ‘Risk factors for the occurrence of child abuse and neglect’, Journal of Aggression Maltreatment and Trauma, 1, pp. 149-187.

Townsend P. (1987), ‘Deprivation’, Journal of Social Policy, 16(2), pp. 125-146.

UNICEF (2005), The State of the World of the Children 2005 – Childhood under Threat, UNICEF, New York. Accessible at:

UNICEF (2007), Child Poverty in Tajikistan. Accessible at: