Background of the Study
One of the primary difficulties in addressing child abuse is how to define it. It is any form of physical, psychological, social, emotional and sexual maltreatment of a child whereby the survival, safety, self-esteem, growth, and development of the child are endangered (Alokan and Bimbola, 2010, P. 73). It is a social conduct injurious to the child in the process of interacting with parents and adults in the family. Child abuse refers to the harm that is done to children. Any action which impedes the child’s development should be considered as abuse. According to Royal Canadian Police (2006) child abuse is any form of physical psychological, social, emotional or sexual maltreatment of a child whereby the survival, safety, self-esteem, growth and development of the child are endangered. RCP goes further to say that there are four main types of child abuse they are neglect, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Child abuse includes any behaviour which neglects the child’s survival and development needs, causes physical or emotional injury, harassment and subject the child to measures, situation and experiences which interfere with the healthy development towards adulthood. According to UNICEF child abuse and neglect are far more common in single-parent families than in families where both parents are present.
Sedkajm and Broadhurst (1996) stated that the growing empirical evidence on child abuse reveals new alarming and distinct patterns of familiar relationship that contribute greatly to this tragedy. In addition to poverty and community environment, the rising incidence of child abuse can be linked to one more factor: whether an abused child’s parents are married. Children react in different ways to the onset of divorce. Some will be extremely sad and show signs of depression and even sleeplessness. Anxiety levels peak as they feel they are going to be abandoned or rejected by one or even both parents. Some divorce situations make the child feel lonely. This may be due to a long absence of one of the parents. No matter what the situation, the child will be affected in some ways by divorce. Some children may become psychologically scarred from the experience.
Child support payments and financial assistance place a monetary strain on one or both parents which directly affects the children negatively. This can lead to physical abuse which involves injuring a child’s body by beating them, burning them or breaking their bones. Broken home can also lead to child neglect which can include physical neglect (withholding food, clothing, shelter or other physical necessities), emotional neglect (with holding love, comfort or affection) or medical neglect (withholding needed medical care) confirmed that a child is safest when his biological parents are married and least safe when his mother is cohabiting with a man other than her husband. Children are many times safer living with their biological married parents than in other family configurations. Various features of child abuse negate the United Nations Convention and OAU charter on Rights of the child. The basic principles of children’s rights according to the United Nations (1989) among others are that every child has the right to live and be allowed to survive and develop every child is entitled to a name, family and nationality is entitled to adequate rest and recreation according to his/her age and culture; every child is entitled to protection from any act that interferes with his or privacy, honor and reputation; every child is entitled to receive compulsory basic education and equal opportunity for higher learning, depending on individual ability. The abused children are costly investment deficits for the society. This is because they are prone to high incidence of personality disorder and lack social skills for dealing with others (Aluko, 1996). Abused children grow up as callous, insensitive adults with varied repercussions for families and society (Adediran, 2003).
In Nigeria, there has been public outcry including media campaign against the prevalent exposure of children to this avoidable social misfortune called child abuse. One observes children engaging in petty-trading and hawking for their parents/guardians when they should be in school laying solid foundation for their future. There are also cases of child prostitution in order to get money. The average school teacher today has on his hands a crisis resulting from parents abdication of their responsibilities and many teachers believe this has (adversely affected the character and output of students. There are cases of dirty and tattered uniformed students stealing or begging for food, students not coming to school regularly and students sleeping during lessons almost all the time. Some of them are affected with anxiety, depression and passive or withdrawal behaviour. Some of the students engage in aggressive, disruptive, inappropriate acts or delinquent behaviour. Some seek inappropriate affection from other students. All these types of negative behaviour usually affect students academic performance.
The cause of child abuse can be traced to broken homes and having large families. A child in a broken home would not receive as much emotional, psychological and financial support as a child in a settled home. Emery (1989) noted that neglected children often are more seriously disturbed than abused children. The neglected child is treated more as if he were not there or as if his parents wished he were not there and this insidious and fundamental rejection can inflict deep psychological wounds (Fagan, 1997). According to Campbell (1932) a broken home is any home where both parents are not living together with child in a normal family relationship. The break might be due to divorce, desertion or any other cause. She went to say that the broken home has a definite effect upon the child’s achievement in school. In a similar vein, Fagan (1999) documented that the root cause of poverty and income disparity is linked undeniably to the presence of marriage. Broken families earn less and experience lower level of educational achievement. Worse, they pass the prospect of meager incomes and family instability on to their children, ensuring a continuity if not expanding cycle of economic distress. Some studies have shown a correlation between broken homes and delinquency in relation to variables such as age, sex, family structure and substances abuse (Barn-Flowers, 2002). Dissention and conflict in a marriage have been found to be important factors in the onset of delinquency among youths. Ganga et al. (1989) did psychosocial analysis of inmates of an approved school; the result revealed that broken home was the reason for the emotional stress which triggered antisocial behaviour. Children want to be with their parents in spite of the injustice done to them. Adult irresponsibility and lack of commitment in matters of sex, love and marriage result in massive suffering for children. Child abuse after robbing children happy childhood is contributing to the growing numbers of violent young people who diminish the freedom to live and walk around safely in the society.
Children from broken home are at great risk in terms of psychological problems. This is supported by the report of London Institute of Psychiatry (2008) which says that people from broken homes are more prone to psychotic illness such as schizeophrenia. This is mental illness in which a person becomes unable to link thought, emotion and behaviour; leading to withdrawal from reality and personal relationships. Abused children grow up in a world of uncertainly, inconsistency, lies, violation, pain and abandonment. Abandonment does not necessarily mean just when a child is left on his own, it also means emotional abandonment leaving a frightened young child all alone to deal with the inner turmoil brought about by abuse. Some abused children often repeat the vicious cycle by becoming abusive parents. Apart from broken homes, other factors has been attributed to the practice of child abuse in the society. This study will therefore examine the factors responsible for child abuse and neglect.
Statement of the Problem
Child abuse is one of the most severe violations of human rights in the world today, involving millions of children worldwide. The phenomenon links all countries and regions in a web of international crime. Every year, children are smuggle across borders and sold like commodities and force. Others are trafficked within their home countries, usually from rural to urban areas. Child abuse violates the human rights guaranteed to children under international law, most notably the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children's survival and development are threatened, and their rights to education, health and protection are denied. The lucrative 'business' has severely affected children in Nigeria. The heinous business denies children the opportunity to grow socially, psychologically and even physically. It must be fought, it must stop now! However, the question of how one can tackle such a problem without the knowledge of its aetiology cannot be left unanswered; it is on this background that the researcher chose to examine the factors responsible for child abuse and neglect.
Objective of the Study
The purpose of the study is to examine the factors responsible for child abuse and neglect. Specifically, the study will focus on the following:
For the purpose of this research, the following null hypotheses has been drawn for testing and verification:
Significant of the Study
This study will be beneficial in the following areas:
The study will guide the federal government of Nigeria in planning and formulating policies towards teaching the problem of child abuse.
The study will also be useful to parents in that it will encourage them to provide education for their children and provide conducive environment for learning.
The study will equally benefit the public in that it will enlighten them on the issues surrounding child abuse.
Finally, the study will be relevant to other researchers since it will provide the theoretical framework for further studies.
Scope of the Study
The study covers socio economic background and child abuse. The study is further limited to three communities in Warri metropolis.
Operational Definition of Terms
The following terms will be defined as used in the study:
Socio: this is a term that is connected with society or the study of society
Economic: an activity that produces profit to an individual
Background: the details of a person’s education, experience and family
Child: an individual who is below the age of puberty.