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With permission from Henry VanderSpek.

Contexts of Violence in Adolescence Cohort Study (CoVAC)

Understanding how family, peer, school and community contexts affect children’s experience of violence in adolescence and early adulthood.

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CoVAC is a mixed-methods cohort study, with 3 waves of epidemiological data collection, 4 waves of qualitative data collection, and an integrated intervention development component.

Who we are

CoVAC is jointly led by epidemiologists at the LSHTM, social scientists at the UCL-IoE, and intervention developers at the Ugandan charity Raising Voices.

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CoVAC is a new 5 year study examining how experience of violence in adolescence can lead to increased risk of intimate partner violence, poor mental health, and other poor health outcomes in early adulthood.

While previous studies have looked at the relationship between violence in adolescence and outcomes in young adulthood, less is known about the pathways by which early and later violence are associated and why some people follow healthy and others less health trajectories. In particular, our study will provide new information about how individual characteristics interact with various contexts, including the family, peer and community social networks, as well as school and community structures, to shape risk and resilience.

Our study aims to: 1) examine the epidemiology and patterns of violence exposure in early adolescence; 2) understand which patterns of early adolescent exposure to violence are associated with violence use and experience in later adolescence and young adulthood; 3) explore the pathways by which violence in early adolescence, later adolescence and young adulthood are associated and how context encourages or interrupts these associations.

As part of the Good Schools Study, we have already collected quantitative survey data from 3438 adolescents in 2014 when they were about age 11-14, as well as their teachers and a subsample of their caregivers. We will do a second survey in 2018 (age 15-18 years) and a third survey in 2021 (age 18-21 years). Analysis will involve fitting mixed regression models and structural equation modelling.

Qualitative data will be collected from 36 adolescent participants who will be followed up at four time points from 2018 to 2021, with data also collected from peers, families, school staff and community members. Drawing on ethnography and participatory research, our analysis will focus on how social processes shape individual biographies over time, following varying experiences of violence, and identifying the contextual dynamics that perpetuate or prevent violence. 

This research will generate novel findings which inform the development of violence prevention interventions internationally. Our research team, led by Raising Voices, will use the results directly to develop additional programming in Uganda.

Who we are
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CoVAC is jointly led by Dr Karen Devries (LSHTM), Dr Jenny Parkes (UCL-IoE), and Mr Dipak Naker (Raising Voices), in partnership with the Uganda MRC.

Dr Karen Devries (co-PI) is a social epidemiologist specialising in violence against children and adolescents, as well as intimate partner violence. She has extensive experience in quantitative survey methods and conducting research with this specific population in Uganda. Dr Devries provides overall oversight of the project, and is responsible for the epidemiological component of the study. Dr Jenny Parkes (co-PI) is an expert in qualitative methods and education and is responsible for the qualitative component of the study. She specialises in research on violence against children and adolescence, and has led a number of studies in sub-Saharan Africa. Dipak Naker (co-PI) at Raising Voices will lead the public engagement, communications and advocacy aspects of the study, and will also use results to directly inform development of new programming to prevent violence. 

Amiya Bhatia (co-I, LSHTM), is the project’s lead epidemiologist and study manager for the third wave of data collection. Aggrey Akim is the project’s study coordinator. Amiya and Aggrey work together, with research partners, to manage the day-to-day operations of the study and support the team of researchers.

Anja Zinke-Allmang (Research Fellow, LSHTM) is a mixed methods researcher. She co-developed the study instruments and worked closely with the study’s counsellors during the third wave of data collection.

Daniel Carter (Research Fellow, LSHTM) co-leads analysis and data management. Daniel is a statistician with an interest in causal inference and causal mediation.

Louise Knight (co-I, LSHTM), is the project’s lead epidemiologist and study manager. Louise has extensive experience managing epidemiological studies in sub-Saharan Africa. She also manages all day to day project activities. 

Dr Eddy Walakira (co-I) is based at Makerere University and is head of the School of Social Work, and provides specific expertise on the Ugandan context, child labour and on violence and health needs in children who are out of school. Dr Walakira also leads the research capacity building activities at Makerere University. 

Dr Elizabeth Allen (co-I, LSHTM) is the study statistician with extensive experience in complex study designs and longitudinal analyses. Dr Nambusi Kyegombe (co-I) is a Ugandan social scientist with specific expertise on violence against children and women (jointly appointed at the Uganda MRC Unit and LSHTM). 

Prof Janet Seeley (co-I) is a social anthropologist at LSHTM and head of the Uganda MRC Unit’s Social Science Programme. Prof Helen Weiss (co-I) is a statistical epidemiologist at LSHTM. Both have worked extensively in Uganda, including on cohort studies, adolescent health and sexual health.


Karen Devries
Louise Knight
Helen Weiss
Elizabeth Allen
Amiya Bhatia
Daniel Carter


Janet Seeley
Nambusi Kyegombe
Lydia Atuhaire (CoVAC Co-ordinator)
Winfred Nalukenge (Lead Social Scientist) 



Dr Jenny Parkes
Simone Datzberger (Social Scientist) 

Raising Voices

Dipak Naker
Sophie Namy
Katharina Anton-Erlebexen
Angel Mirembe
Tvisha Nevatia

This project is part of the Child Protection Research Group.