This paper explores the nature of the violence that characterises complex humanitarian emergencies and the related implications for modelling livelihoods systems. While noting the importance of livelihoods approaches in complex humanitarian emergencies, it deliberates the limitations of sustainable livelihoods frameworks when applied in environments marked by protracted instability. Adaptations to the model are discussed, with a particular focus on the relationships among violence, assets and liabilities within livelihoods systems. Political economy of violence theories intimate that the assets on which livelihoods systems are constructed in peaceful times may instead become life-and livelihood-threatening liabilities in periods of conflict. Adaptations to livelihood systems in violent settings require that analysts consider violence from policy, institutional and process perspectives. It is suggested that vulnerability should be re-conceptualised as endogenous to livelihoods systems in violent settings. Building on the work of others, a livelihoods model adapted for complex humanitarian emergencies is presented.