Demographic Predictors of Parental Child Abuse and Neglect and Preventive Measures in Bauchi State, Nigeria

Demographic Predictors of Parental Child Abuse and Neglect and Preventive Measures in Bauchi State, Nigeria

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Background to the Study

Child abuse and neglect (CAN) is a serious public health problem and occurs in varying proportions or magnitudes, resulting to burden imposed on children by parents or adults. Most adults often impose their wishes on children without any recourse to their feelings. This flagrant imposition more often than not instilled so much fear in the minds of children. World wide, approximately 5 children die every day because of child abuse and neglect (National Children's Alliance, 2014). They further reported that in 2010, about 1,537 children died of abuse or neglect, 79.4 per cent were under the age of 18 years. Statistics indicated that, there were an estimated 896,000 substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in the United States of America (USA) in 2004. Cases involving approximately 4.5 million children were referred to Child Protective Services throughout the country each year for investigation into allegations of abuse and neglect. Of these reported cases 30 per cent were abuse and neglect of children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-USDHHS, 2008). World Health Organization and International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect-WHO/ISPCAN (2006) and USDHHS (2008) revealed that child abuse and neglect have been and continues to be a major public health problem in the United States. This therefore portends that it is a problem that is not perculiar to the USA alone, but other countries of the world.

In Rome, until quite recently, children had very few rights with regard to protection from abuse and neglect by their parents. However, child abuse and neglect continued to be perpetuated in many parts of communities in Rome (Ministry of Women and Child Development-Rome-MWCDR, 2014). These suggest that child abuse and neglect is still prevalent in some parts of developed nations of the world.

In Africa, it has been reported that 35 per cent of the children in West and Central Africa are estimated to suffer from child abuse and neglect. There are, however, wide variations among individual countries in the region (UNICEF, 2009). The incidence of child abuse and neglect in Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe, for example, is very low, at 3 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively. In contrast, six countries (Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Togo) have child abuse and neglect rates of more than 40 per cent, and more than half the children’s population in Chad experienced child abuse and neglect. In many African countries, the child abuse and neglect rate in rural areas is at least twice as high as that in urban areas and abuse and neglect in educational settings leads to high rates of school dropouts and low rates of school enrolment in this region, especially among girls (UNICEF, 2009).

In Nigeria, child abuse and neglect by parents seems to be relatively high. Studies conducted by (UNICEF, 2012) in separate surveys on prevalence of sex and class of secondary



school students, child abuse and neglect by teachers indicated that both boys and girls had experienced diverse forms of abuse and neglect in schools by teachers and other staff in the school. In Edo State, it was reported that emotional abuse was very frequently among girls (Okoza, Aluede

&  Ojugo, 2011). In addition, Shukura (2012) affirmed that pupils' abuse and neglect in schools were enormous. Similarly, a study in Bauchi State showed that 59.8 per cent of schoolgirls were neglected from being enrolled in schools (Targeted States High Impact Project- TSHIP, 2012). From the foregoing statistics, there are evidences of child abuse and neglect in the developed and the developing nations of the World including Nigeria and Bauchi State in particular, however, this study is poised to identify demographic variables that are capable of predicting child abuse and neglect.

The Nigerian Child Right Act bill was passed into law in July 2003, it received the assent of the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in September 2003 and was promulgated as the Child Rights Act 2003. Report showed that there is lack of enforcement of the act by law makers and judiciary (UNICEF, 2011). This may imply that countries that have promulgated Child Right Act seem to experience fewer incidences of child abuse and neglect than those that have not and there are variations in the abuse of children based on the prevailing socio-demographic or cultural factors that may enhance the thriving trend of child abuse and neglect.

In Bauchi State, early marriage is a norm, coupled with customary laws and cultural practices such as fosterage, many girls are particularly vulnerable to child protection deficits. This group of vulnerable persons is commonly abused and neglected (Olanrewaju, 2014). The question now is what demographic factors or attributes of parents can be used to predict child abuse and neglect in Bauchi State. This suggests the need to conduct a study on demographic predictors of child abuse and neglect in Bauchi State, becomes pertinent.

Child abuse is a potential risk among young and old people alike. Child abuse is a multi-dimensional phenomenon that encompasses a broad range of behaviours, events, and circumstances, unlike random acts of violence or exploitation (National Academies of Sciences- NAS, 2009). NAS described child abuse as all intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk or harm to a child by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trusted relationship to the child. According to National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children-NSPCC (2014), child abuse is any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child. In this study, NAS (2009) definition of child abuse is adopted as the operational definition. Child abuse is multi facetted phenomenon. Child abuse is of different forms, namely: physical, sexual and psychological or emotional (Shukura, 2012).

Children experienced abuses that include child physical abuse. Child physical abuse refers to non-accidental bodily injury that has been inflicted on a child (Epstein, 2001). It can also be defined as denying the victim (child) of some functions necessary to life (U.S Department of Justice, 2007).


Studies such as Yu (2007), U.S Department of Justice (2007) and Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence -ACADV (2010), indicated that child physical abuse has different forms including physical aggression (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects), or threats thereof; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; and passive/covert abuse and deprivation. In addition, NSPCC (2014) identified burning, drowning, hitting, poisoning, scalding, shaking, suffocating and throwing object at a child as physical abuse. The severity of injuries may range from relatively minor (bruises and lacerations) to moderate (scarring and abrasions) and severe (burns, sprains or fractured bones). In this study, physical child abuse refers to any act that is intentional, which leads to harm or injury to the child. In many cases, these forms of physical child abuses result because parents see children as a tool that can be manipulated the way they like without considering the right of these children, therefore perpetrate child abuse and neglect on these vulnerable children. From the above information, children fall victim of different types of child abuse irrespective of sex. One of such types of child abuse is child sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse refers to the victimization of a child by sexual activities. UNICEF (2009) hold, that sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with a child. ACADV (2010) defined child sexual abuse as any situation in which force is used to obtain participation in unwanted sexual activity. NSPCC (2014) posited that sexual abuse is any act that forces a child or young person to participate in sexual activities, regardless of whether the child is aware of what is going on. In this study, UNICEF (2009) definition is adopted as operational definition of sexual child abuse. Sexual abuse activities may include assault by penetration, such as rape or oral sex, and non-penetrative sexual activities, such as touching outside of clothing, rubbing, kissing, and masturbating (NSPCC, 2014). These can sometimes interfer with child’s emotional stability, which is refers to emotional child abuse.

Every human being expresses emotional feelings including children. Emotional child abuse is any undesirable or unpleasant act inflicted on children by a caregiver or any person who can potentially make them feel embarrassed (Ba- Saddik & Hattab, 2012). Child emotional abuse is also defined as saying things and behaving in a way that conveys to the child that he or she is inadequate, unloved, worthless, or only valued as far as the other person's needs are concerned (NSPCC, 2014). In this study, child emotional abuse refers to the parent’s or caregiver's inappropriate acts toward a child that potentially make them feel embarrassed. ACADV (2010) identified child emotional abuse acts to include conflicting actions or statements which are designed to confuse and create insecurity in the victim, ridiculing what they say, silencing them, mocking, shouting, calling names and threatening. In addition, Price-Robertson, Bromfield and Richardson (2013) identified five forms of child emotional abuse as: rejection, isolation, terrorizing, ignoring and corrupting forms of child emotional abuse. Another core concept in the study is child neglect.


Parents sometimes failed in providing the needs of their children, even when they have the means to do so. Child neglect is defined as a type of ill-treatment related to the failure to provide needed, age-appropriate care (Greer, 2014). Consequently, Smith and Segal (2014) defined child neglect as failure to provide for a child's basic needs, whether it is adequate food, clothing, hygiene, or supervision. It may then be seen as ill-treatment of child and unable to provide child needs. Child neglect is the failure of parent or caregiver to provide for the child’s basic needs such as clothing, medical care, love, school uniform among others.

Child neglect may cut across every stratum of a giving population. UNICEF (2009) noted that 25 per cent of children in Nigeria, including orphans, were neglected and suffered from inadequate nutrition, poor access to health care, and infrequent school attendance. Child neglect is the least studied form of violence against children. This is due to multiple factors including the difficulty in defining and documenting neglect in children (Perry, Colwell & Schick, 2009). These factors may lead children to exhibit different characteristic in life’s endeavours.

Child neglect manifests in various forms. Neglect may include: improper feeding of the child, poor clothing of the child, lack of adequate or comfortable shelter for the child, abandonment or excommunication of the child from home, exposure of the child to emotional danger or harm, vulnerability of the child to physical danger or harm and child’s lack of access to medical treatment or care (NSPCC, 2014). Once children are in school, health personnel often notice indicators of child neglect such as poor hygiene, weight loss, inadequate medical care, or frequent absenteeism from school (Greer, 2014).The forms of child neglect is of categories.

Child neglect is categorized into four forms, namely: physical, emotional, educational and medical neglect (Perry, Colwell & Schick, 2009; Polek & Wach, 2013; Smith & Segal, 2014). Greer (2014) and Croft (2014) separately affirmed the four forms of child neglect which include, physical, emotional, educational, and medical neglect which are mostly experienced by children. In this study, physical, emotional, educational and medical forms of child neglect were examined.

Physical child neglect is an act of inflicting pains on the vulnerable child. Hala and Robinson (2002) posited that physical child neglect accounts for the majority of cases of maltreatment. Physical child neglect can also be seen as failure of caretakers to provide for the basic needs (Smith

&   Segal, 2014). Physical child neglect refers to the inability of parents or caregiver to provide for the child's safety as well as his or her physical needs. Smith and Segal further gave examples to include, non provision of education and clothing, others includes refusal or delay in obtaining health care, abandonment, forcing the child to leave the home or refusal to allow the child back home and inadequate supervision. Physical child neglect involves not providing appropriate clothing, food and cleanliness of living conditions. Child physical neglect can severely impact a child's development by causing failure to thrive (prosper), malnutrition; serious illnesses; physical harm in the form of cuts,


bruises and burns due to lack of supervision and a lifetime of low self-esteem (Hala & Robinson, 2002). Perry, Colwell and Schick (2009) added, that often in combination with emotional neglect, child physical neglect can severely impact on development by causing failure to thrive, malnutrition, untreated serious infections (diseases; e.g., pneumonia), physical harm in the form of cuts, bruises, and burns due to lack of supervision and can affect psychological disposition of a child.

A child can also be neglected emotionally. Child’s emotional neglect has been defined by Hala and Robinson (2002) as actions or extreme spousal abuse in the child's presence. Moran (2009) referred to child emotional neglect as a condition when a caregiver is being unresponsive to a child’s basic emotional needs. Perry, Colwell and Schick (2009) posited that child emotional neglect include actions such as refusal or failure to provide needed psychological care, constant belittling, and withholding of affection. Child emotional neglect refers to condition when a caregiver is being unresponsive to a child’s basic emotional needs such as love, warm, and lack of provision cloths. Stressing the above definition, Smith and Segal (2014) explained that emotional form of child neglect may include lack of provision of love, affection and comfort by a caregiver. This pattern of behaviour can lead to poor self-image, alcohol or drug abuse, destructive behaviour and even suicide. Severe neglect of infants can result in the infant failing to grow and thrive and may even lead to infant death. This implies that the consequences of child emotional neglect may prevent the children from attaining their educational potentials. Therefore there is the need to address the emotional needs of a child in order to harnessed education goals.

When educational opportunities are provided to children, it enables them developed wholistically. Child educational neglect is defined as the failure to provide a child with experiences for necessary growth and development, such as not sending a child to school or giving him or her education (Turney & Tanner, 2005). Child education neglect is also defined as the inability of caregiver to provide a stimulating environment for the child (Moran, 2009). In this study, child educational neglect refers to caregiver's failure to provide appropriate educational opportunities for the child. Hala and Robinson (2002) posited that educational neglect manifests when a child is allowed to engage in chronic truancy, is of mandatory school age but not enrolled in school or receiving the needed special educational training. They further noted that, educational neglect can lead to under achievement in acquiring the necessary basic skills, dropping out of school and or undergoing continuously disruptive behaviour. In addition, Perry, Colwell and Schick (2009) stated that educational neglect can lead to under achievement in acquiring necessary basic skills, dropping out of school, and continually disruptive, which seem to be common among children of school age in Bauchi State. The implication of this is that if some parents can not take care of the educational needs of a child, medical bill of the child may also be difficult to pay.


Failure to provide appropriate health care for a child (although financially able to do so), thus placing the child at risk of being seriously disabled or disfigured or dying. National Institute of Health (2006) defined medical child neglect as the inability of caregivers to meet children's basic health care needs. In this study, the definition by National Institute of Health (2006) on medical child neglect is adopted and used. Medical neglect of child is insecurity to the health of a child. Hala and Robinson (2002) believed that in some cases, a parent or caretaker will withhold traditional medical care during the practice of religious beliefs. Further more, concern is warranted not only when a parent refuses medical care for a child in an emergency or for an acute illness, but also when a parent ignores medical recommendations for a child with a treatable chronic disease or disability, resulting in frequent hospitalizations or significant deterioration (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007). Child’s medical neglect can result in poor overall health and compounded medical problems. Secondary school students may be exposed to different forms of child neglect such as physical, emotional, educational and medical because they are active at this period, this is for the fact that they are undergoing series of developmental changes. It is, therefore, necessary to pay attention to them, with the aim of helping them out of their problems and for them to feel that their right is protected.

Child abuse is all intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk or harm to a child by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trusted relationship to the child while child neglect is the failure of parent or caregiver to provide for the child’s basic needs. These concepts were used in investigating the occurrence and perpetuation of this maltreatment by parents among secondary school in Bauchi State, Nigeria. However, establishing the proportion of child abuse is important.

The proportion of abuse and neglect against children by parents may be difficult to determine because so much of it happens in secret, some victims find it very difficult to expose the perpetrators and many of these cases may not have been reported (WHO/ISPCAN, 2006). Proportion of child abuse and neglect is the number of occurrence or p erpetuation of the act. Houghton (2009) also viewed proportion as number of occurrence of problems in a given population at a specific time. In this study, proportion is the number of occurrences of child abuse and neglect among secondary school students that constitute the subject of the study. Although, fear has made children accept abuse and neglect as an inevitable part of life, because some abuse and neglect is unexpected and isolated (United Nations, 2005). Certain groups of children are particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect, they include children with disabilities, children belonging to minority groups, children living on the streets, adolescents in conflict with the law, refugees and displaced children. Often children who face abuse and neglect or witness it remain silent (United Nations Children Education Fund-UNICEF, 2009). Such cases may not even be reported. This worrisome and unprecedented trend is


more profound in developing nations of Africa including sub-Saharan Africa, where most of the cases are not reported (UNICEF, 2009). In the absence of extensive child abuse and neglect sentinel (old fashioned) studies, no one is sure of the accurate rate of child abuse and neglect perpetration in developing nations of Africa including sub-Saharan Africa (UNICEF, 2009), where most of the abuse and neglect cases where not reported especially in relationship to children.

Children, world over, are seen and considered as God’s (nature) gift to humanity. Ikechebelu, Udigwe, Ezechukwu, Ndinechi and Joe–Ikechebelu (2008) defined a child as human beings between the stages of birth to puberty. UNICEF-Nigeria (2011) defined a child as a person below the age of 18 years. In this study, a child is any person in secondary school in the area of study. Another senerio in the North–East Nigeria is that children are used as mere bait by the boko-haram sect to draw the government’s attention or as barricade of self defense during military offensive attacks, for instance based on observation; girls and boys are forced to join the sect in carrying out their devilish act against their wish. Children within the age of 10-20 years are important in investigating child abuse and neglect, for the fact that they are at the receiving end. Perpetration of child abuse and neglect can be influenced by demographic variables, therefore demographic variables that relate parents will be used to predict or foretell the occurrence of child abuse and neglect by parents in Bauchi State.

Demographic may be implicated in the perpetration of child abuse and neglect. Demographic include: gender, age, location, death rate, birth rate, marital status, occupation, educational attainment, academic level, parity and religion (Anderson, 2009). Adalio (2010) defined demographic as the interdisciplinary study of human populations (draws extensively from related disciplines: sociology, economics, statistics, history, political science, anthropology, psychology, public health and environmental sciences). Park (2010) also defined demographic as the science of study of human population. Demographic in this study refer to the attributes or characteristics that define vividly the children’s population in Bauchi State in relation to abuse and neglect. In this study, variables, factors, attributes and characteristics are used interchangeably.

Demographic factors, attributes or characteristics include sex, race, religion, age, socioeconomic index, and occupation. This study is interested in the distribution of population in space and their characteristics or attributes. In addition, Anderson (2009) mentioned some demographic factors or attributes to include: age, parentage, physical condition, ethnicity, occupation, civil position, giving the size, birth, marriage, death, migrations, economic conditions, statistics of crime, illegitimacy, suicide; levels of education; and social status. Clipart (2012) has shown a relationship between these factors and child abuse and neglect. In this context, demographic attributes of age, religious affiliation, academic level, location, marital status, parity and occupation, were identified for predicting or forecasting the occurrence of child abuse and neglect in Bauchi State. Oladipo (2012) investigated gender, religious affiliation, institution of learning and academic


level as factors predicting sexual risk susceptibility among university undergraduates drawn from two Universities in South-Western Nigeria. Female gender was predictive of membership in the predominately sexually abused class and child protection status was predictive of membership in all abuse classes compared to the non-abused class. From the above information, demographic variables or factors have been used in predicting problems that relates to public health.

Age is important when investigating predictors, it varies with individuals. Studies have identified a link between age and involvement with child protective services (CPS), in those African American caregivers had more reports of child abuse and neglect occurrence than European-American and Latino caregivers (Berger, 2005). Malik (2010) in determinants of child abuse in Pakistani families, demographic variables age of parents, there was no significant relationship between socioeconomic class and use of physical abuse against children. Age of parent along side their marital status is relevant in determing child abuse and neglect.

Marital status of parents is a very important factor in predicting child abuse and neglect. Schaeffer et al. (2005) stated that poor marital adjustment, dissatisfaction with social support networks, and low family cohesion predicted child abuse potential for mothers but not for fathers. Marital dissatisfaction and poor social support have been associated with child maltreatment in numerous studies examining mothers.Concerning parents' marital status, only pupils with divorced parents were significantly more likely to experienced emotional abuse (OR = 2.20; CI: 1.01-4.79) (Ba-saddik et al. 2012). Study of this nature examined the role of life events, social support, and marital satisfaction in the prediction of father’s child maltreatment is needed to clarify these apparent gender differences. It will be discussed well when religion is used as a guide to moral attainment.

Religion is a factor that inculcates discipline in individuals, but when moral instruction by religion is not appropriately used people especially parents abuse children in the name of religious practice. Malik (2007) argued that the roots for the use of force and violence as a disciplining practice that lead to abuse and neglect may also be ingrained in the religious and legal institutions. Religion is one of the distinctive variables that appear to be linked with the issue of child abuse which also lead children to face discrimination by the parents. It is a general practice that mothers prefer sons to daughters and fathers show gentle attitude towards daughters. Parents with good educational background may want to avoid child abuse and neglect.

Level of educational attainment of parents may foretell the occurrence of maltreatment in a family. Children with highly educated mothers reported less child abuse as compared to the children with less educated mothers. On the other hand, the high education levels of fathers play a protective role against pupils' emotional abuse (OR = .64; 95% CI: .46-.90) (Ba-saddik et al., 2012). A cross tabulations were used to establish relationships between educational level as these pertained to people believing that CSA was a major problem. There was a positive relationship between sex and


educational level of the respondents and attitudes toward domestic violence as the margin of error was within the 95 per cent confidence level (Rohner, Melendez, & Krimer-Rickaby, 2008). Therefore, level of educational attainment is capable of predicting child abuse and neglect, however, may depend on

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