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Background to the Study

Abuse of various dimensions is on the increase among human population. The increase involves a wide spectrum of situations ranging from personal, social, cultural and environmental dimensions, among which is the abuse of children by people. In some communities, abuse is becoming quite rampant, with a high proportion of children population being at risk (Africans Unite Against Child Abuse-AFRUCA, 2001).The report further observed that African children that have been abused in the UK grew from 96, 667 to about 145, 667 in 2002, a phenomenal 50 per cent increase within eight years period. In 2003, 14 per cent of asylum applications were from Africa especially those from conflict zones such as Sierra Leone, Somalia, Angola, Congo, Zimbabwe and Liberia.

Victims of child abuse suffer from different types of health problems (Flesherty, Thompson, Litrowinik, Zolotor, & Runyan, 2009).They further observed that some children suffer from pelvic or muscular pain with no identifiable reason. Traumas caused by experiences of child abuse have serious effects on the developing brain, increasing the risk of psychological problems (Streech- Fischer and Van Der Kolk, 2000). In appropriate sexual behaviour is also linked with abuse, and most commonly with sexual abuse and exposure to highly violent and sexualized environment (Corby, 2006; Merrick, Litrowick,Everson and Cox, 2008).

Neglected adolescents may also display aggressive and disruptive behaviour, externalized behaviour problems are more closely associated with physical and sexual abuse or witnessing domestic violence (Holt, Buckley, & Whelan 2008). It would therefore seem convincing from literature assertions that many child abuse cases which may be a serious public health problem in Nigeria.

A child is a person who is strictly under the protection or care of someone who may be the parents or guardians (Nnabue, 1993). A child is a young boy or girl who has not reached the age of 18 years above (Onuzulike, 1998). Onuzulike further stated that all over the world, the child is seen as one who has to be provided for in terms of food, shelter, protection and social stimulation until such a time they becomes capable of looking after


himself or herself. In this present study, a child is a person who is still under the age of eighteen years that depends on their parents, guardians and elderly members of the family. From the above definitions, when a child is not properly taken care of it become abuse.

Abuse is a multi-dimensional phenomenon that encompasses a broad range of behaviours; events and circumstances, unlike random acts of violence or exploitation (National Academics of Sciences, NAS, 2009). The report further perceived abuse as all intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk or harm (whether or not harm is intended) to vulnerable children by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trusted relationship to the children. In this present study abuse is the use of something in a way that is wrong or harmful to the child. This can result to child abuse.

Child abuse is any deliberate acts by a person, group or society to inflict harm on any individual less than eighteen years to prevent him or her from normal physical, social, moral and emotional development Ebigbo (1998). World Health Organisation-WHO (2002) define child abuse as all forms of physical and emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power. Loeb, Paulozzi, Melanson, Simon and Arias (2008) stated that child abuse occur in a child’s home, with a smaller amount occurring in the organizations, schools or communities the child interact with. The report asserted that child abuse among in-school adolescents is of different types, namely; neglect, physical, emotional and sexual abuse. They further stated that child abuse can results in unnecessary suffering, injury, pain, loss, and or violation rage, offense, crime and violation of human rights and decreased quality of life.

Physical abuse refers to the infliction of physical harm on a child by a parent or caregiver (United Nations, 2007). Physical abuse has many kinds including physical aggression (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving; restraining, slapping and throwing objects), or threats thereof, controlling or domineering; intimidation and stalking (Yu, 2007).United Nation (2007) reported that physical abuse can also include behaviours such as denying victims of medical care when needed, depriving victim of sleep or other functions necessary to live, or forcing victim to engage in drug or alcohol use against his or her will.


Child neglect which refers to the failure to meet the basic needs of children, including housing, clothing, food and access to medical care Follingstad (2000). Follingstad further stated that neglect occurs when a child’s parents or other caregivers are not providing essential requisites to a child’s physical and emotional development. Loeb, Paulozzi, Melanson, Simon and Arias (2008) affirmed emotional abuse refers to the pattern of behaviour by parents or caregivers that can seriously interfere with a child cognitive, emotional, psychological or social development. Loeb, Paulozzi, Melanson, Simon and Arias ( 2008) further stated that emotional abuse may encompass threatening the victim with injury or harm, telling victim that he or she will be killed if he or she ever report, and public humiliation. Constant criticism, name-calling, and making statements that damage the victim’s self-esteem are also common forms of emotional abuse which can result to sexual abuse

Sexual abuse as exploitative behaviours involving threats; force or the inability of the person abused to consent at any given period and place World Health Organization- WHO (2002). Arizona Coalition against Domestic Violence-ACADV (2010) defined sexual abuse as any situation in which force is used to obtain participation in unwanted sexual activity. ACADV (2010) added that categories of sexual abuse may include use of physical force to compel a person to engage in a sexual act against his or her will. The coalition further stated that whether or not the act is completed; whit a person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, unable to decline participation, unable to communicate or unwillingness to engage in the sexual act because of overage, illness, disability or the influence of alcohol or other drugs. In this present study, child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect of a child. The way, form and manner individual abuse a child therefore, can be in various patterns.

Pattern refers to the various forms in which something may occur or happen. Patterns is the various forms something may take (Cowie, 1990). As described by Schlrartz (1993) pattern is a design or guide, which appears among people. Homby (2006) described pattern as the regular way in which something happens or is done. Ryan, Sponsellar, Stuart and Fisher (2008) stated pattern is the distribution, occurrence and characteristics of things, substances and event in environment. In this study, pattern is refers to the various forms something may take.


There are three forms of patterns.( Pridemore, Andrew & Spiuak 2003) and Avendo, (2005) classified pattern into three forms: Demographic pattern or variations, temporal pattern variations and spatial pattern or variations. Demographic pattern include those factors that may affect human populations, especially with reference to size, density, distribution and vital statistic such as age, gender, level of education, occupation and health status.

Demographic pattern is the study of human populations, its structure, processes and dynamics (Klauke, 2000).Similarly, Martin (2000) described demographic pattern as the characteristics of a population as used in government, marketing or opinion research. He asserted that the commonly used demographic pattern include sex, age, race, income, disabilities, educational attainment, home ownership, employment status, household size, population growth and density. Demographic pattern of child abuse in this study refers to abused child by people according to age, gender, level of education and income. The determination of child abuse among adolescent based on the above demographic variables in this study is necessary because people of different characteristics who abuse adolescent may be targeted by directing preventive measures in reducing the incidence and prevalence.

Temporal pattern relates to time or period. Pridemore, Andrew and Spivak (2003) described temporal pattern to include such variables as seasons, months, days of the week (Friday, Saturdays, Sunday), time of the day (morning, afternoons, evening), public holiday, (Easter, Christmas, Salah), National Day celebrations (October 1st), Democracy Day (May

29)  and National general election days. Martin (2006) observed that temporal pattern is used to answer question about the state of information in the past. Therefore, temporal pattern helps in retrieving facts that have been time stamped with a validity Interval. With respect to this study, the temporal pattern is interpreted to mean the time or period (such as morning, afternoon, month, place of occurrence, evening, weekend, or festival periods, during rainy and dry seasons) that people in the study area abuse children. The determination of the time of abuse of children is important for some reasons. Studying the temporal pattern of child abuse would enable one to establish the actual time or period that people in this study area are involved in child abuse, which may help to plan on how best to tackle child abuse problem.

Spatial pattern relates to space, location and the position, size and shape of things in it. For instance, changes taking place in the spatial distribution of the population of a place. Pridemore, Andrew and Spiuak (2003) described spatial pattern as geographical region (i.e. location) in a particular country which could be divided into economic and administrative


regions as a mixture of structure and cultural forces which may be socio-economic development in the North or Southern part in a country. Avendo (2005) described spatial pattern as space, location or distribution of projects or events in a setting. Spatial pattern as the zero dimensional characteristics of a set of one point to another Avendo (2005). Avendo (2005) stated that spatial pattern is used to answer questions about location and distribution of point of objects and object could be arranged randomly, clustered or evenly distributed. The author refers to this arrangement as the classification of spatial pattern. In this study, therefore, the spatial pattern or variation of child abuse refers to abuse of the adolescent by parent according to location. Such location or place may include; in bars, in a restaurant, in parties; in the neighbourhood; and in rural and urban areas: Most professionals observed that victims of child abuse suffer from different types of health problems. However this could be prevented.

AFRUCA (2001) report that child abuse occur worldwide, and occurrence of child abuse behaviours are not restricted to any culture, location, age, or gender, and that it cut across every segment of society. Therefore, there is need to indentify different patterns of child abuse among adolescents that certain preventive measures directed at these patterns may be needed.

Preventive measures are actions taken by social works and others to minimize and eliminate those social, psychological, or other conditions known to contribute to physical or emotional illness (Mifflin, 2004). Mifflin (2004) further stated that preventive measures include establishing those conditions in society that enhances the opportunities for individual’s families and communities to achieve positive fulfillment. Homby (2006) defined preventive measures as actions intended to try to stop something undesirable from happening. In this study, preventive measure refers to, the systematic coordinated actions taken by health personnel social workers and others to reduce delay or eliminate child abuse behaviour in society. Botvin and Odejide (2006) report that there are several types of measures to prevent child abuse among adolescent. These preventive measures include: public enlightenment programmes; multidisciplinary joint action: mass medial or information dissemination; and rehabilitation and treatment approaches measures ( Odejide, 2006).

Public enlightenment programmes, (Odejide, 2006) maintained that such programmes may aim at (i) to reduce child abuse problem a community (ii) influencing attitudes and policies towards child abuse; and (iii) strengthening of policies or laws by cities and local


communities. Multi-disciplinary joint action is described as an effective measure to prevent child abuse in the society. The aims of multi disciplinary joint action may include (i) to involves several health professionals of different areas of specialization to work together, (ii) to pull together resources (e.g. personnel materials machinery technical and money) to support activities to prevent or reduce child abuse in the society. Maurer (2009) posited that, more than any social problem, child abuse is concern for a wide diversity of disciplines and services, none of which should claim a monopoly of the knowledge, measure or means to prevent it. The author submitted that people from different sector should work and collaborate to combat child abuse in society.

Mass communication (television, radio, magazine, newspaper) holds a substantial promise as a tool for reaching and persuading people to adopt new and healthier lifestyles. Challot (2006) stated that the participation of the mass media in the prevention of child abuse through vigorous campaign is recommended. He reasoned that the mass media intervention when integrated into other existing programmes could provide a relatively less expensive means of exposing the population to health information through the designing, production and distribution of leaflets, poster, radio and television jingles.

On rehabilitation and treatment approaches measures, Babor (2004) observe that, treatment interventions are principally designing to serve the need of the individual patients and clients but there are number of ways that these interventions may impact at the community and population levels, through public awareness of child abuse problems. This is aimed at influencing national and community agendas, involving health professionals in advocacy for prevention and providing secondary benefits to families, employers and automobile drivers.

Brackenridge and Fasting (2006), while discussing the importance of preventive measures, emphasized that such measures aimed at reducing or preventing undesirable behaviours (e.g. violence, fighting, drug addiction, child abuse) cannot be carried out as an end to themselves but that their results should be used to initiate and design specific measure directed towards selected target population, for example, the abused adolescents. The target population for this study, which is adolescents (in-school) as subjects, therefore seems very appropriate. In- school adolescents are student in both public and private primary and secondary schools in West Senatorial District of Bayelsa state.


Adolescent, according to WHO (2002), are regarded as the youths within the age of 10- 24 years. This proportion, the report further stated, varies in developed and developing countries and they make up only 21 per cent of the population in developed countries, but 29 per cent in developing countries such as Nigeria. Melgogsa (2002) categorized adolescence in a developmental chronological order as follows: early adolescence (11-15 years); middle adolescent (16-18 years); and late adolescent (18-22 years or older). It was noted that, technically, an adult is someone who has reached the legal age 18 years in many legal systems. However, the real adult condition is not reached until one achieves independence, freedom and personal income. In most societies, including Bayelsa state, the real adult status is being delayed because adolescents continue to depend on their parents during their long years of study and job searchin g, often until they are 20 or 24 years old. Melgosa (2002) further asserted that even when they have reached biological maturity and the rights which the laws recognize for adults, psychological adolescent continues. Nugent (2005) viewed adolescent as “young people ‘or “youth” between the ages 10 and 24 years, which covers a wide range of experiences and transitions that includes an early phase (between 0 and 14 years), a middle phase (between 15 and 24 years ) and a later phase (between 21 and 24 years). The report further stated that by the time adolescents finishes this stage of life, they have set in motion many of the events that will determine their life path.

Degano, Fortin and Remple (2007), used the terms “youths”, “adolescents” and “young person”, interchangeably to describe adolescents as young person between the ages of twelve and twenty five years. Brown and Colleagues (2008) described adolescent in a developmental perspective as follows: early adolescent (10-24 years); late adolescence (16-20 years). It was further observed that late adolescence is characterized by significant changes in neurological and cognitive process, behavioural and social functioning, relationships, and physical contexts as the individual moves toward adulthood. In this study, adolescent refers to young people between the age 1O-20 years who may be in-school, who may be depending on their parents for their economic and social sustenance. Therefore, deserve attention and call for well designed articulated preventive measures. More-over, adolescent are the leader of tomorrow and must not be abused. Child abuse among adolescence may be associated with factors, such as age, gender and level of education.

Gilbert,Spatz, Browne, Fergusson, Webb and Janson (2006) observed that adolescent as young as eighteen years of age have been abuse by parent or other caregivers resulting in


harm, even if the harm is unintentional. They further observed that abused adolescent will later grow up and abuse other adolescent. Studies (Odejide, 2006; Morecra & Maria, 2009), have shown that child abuse among adolescent is common in people between 15 and 20 years. Although various age groups have been implicated, the age that have been linked to child abuse among adolescent may also involve gender.

Gender disparities linked to child abuse which have been widely explored in literature with the consistent finding that child abuse occurs in both males and females. Bonomi, Cannon, Anderson, Rivara and Thompson (2008) reported that females were more likely than males to witness domestic violence and were at a higher risk of sexual assault. They further asserted that boys were at a higher risk of physical assaults than girls. Although there is consistency in the abuse of children by people with reference to gender, this may have been influenced by level of education.

Level of education also appears to be a factor that may be implicated in child abuse, especially among adolescents and young persons. Yan and Tony (2004) noted that level of education as a factor that influences child abuse among adolescent is widespread by senior year of high school and nearly ninety per cent of students have been abuse at this stage. They found that over 60 per cent of abusers were junior and senior student and teachers. It was reported that 27.5 per cent of the adolescent experienced some form of abuse. Verbal abuse was the most prevalent mistreatment experienced by 26.8 per cent of the participants. Violation of child rights was experienced by 51 per cent, and physical abuse was experience by 2.5 per cent.

Theoretical models relevant to child abuse in the present study shall include the following: attachment theory and spatial syntax theory. Attachment theory originated by Mary Ainsworth and John Bowiby, (1980s) observed that children attachment is the deep emotional connection that child forms with his or her primary caregiver, often mother. It is a tie that binds them together, endures over time, and leads the child to experience pleasure, joy safety, and comfort in the caregiver’s company. Spatial syntax theory is a science based human focused approach that investigates relationship between spatial layout and a range of social economic and environmental phenomena including pattern of movement, public space use, land use and crime distribution.


Bayelsa State is one of the thirty six states in Nigeria with its capital in’Yenagoa. It has created in October 1996 and has eight Local Government Areas (LGAs) with three Senatorial Districts namely: Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, Bayelsa East Senatorial District and West Senatorial District of Bayelsa State. West Senatorial District of Bayelsa State is made up of two LGAs namely; Ekeremor, and Sagbama. West Senatorial District of Bayelsa State has a population 270,247 of adolescent aged 10-24 years which is 33 per cent of the total population, ma1e=145,124 and female =125,124 (National Population Commission, 2009).

The (SDs) has four educational zones having 152 primary and secondary school (Public Schools =122; Private Schools = 30) clustered in one senatorial District (SDs). West Senatorial District of Bayelsa State, many in-school adolescents experiences abuse and harm for a variety of reasons, cultural and religious practices, ignorance and illiteracy, poverty and wickedness. Therefore, abortion, child abandonment, child trafficking, child labour and adolescent hawking in the parks are prevalent in Bayelsa State.

Statement of the Problem

All over the world the child is seen as one who has to be provided for, in the form of food, shelter and social stimulation, until the child becomes capable of looking after himself or herself. The United Nations (UN) convention on the right of the child provides that children who are in the care of parents, guardians, teachers or any other persons who have care of a child should protect them from all forms of torture.

Following the trend, most of these basic needs of adolescent are hardly being met, rather the child is abused physically, mentally and sexually or molested. Adults in many cases do not regard some of their violent behaviours toward children as abusive, but perceive them as corrective measures in the best interest of the child. The child may be battered, deprived, castigated, in extreme cases by parents, guardians and elderly ones when the child misbehaves. Leeb, Paulozzi, Melanson, Simeon and Arias (2008) reported that child abuse results in unnecessary suffering, daprivative, injury, pain, Loss, and or violation rape, unjust custom practices, crime and violation of human rights and decreased quality of life. Leeb et. al., (2008) further contended that sexual abuse can lead to contraction of sexually transmitted infection (STIs), H1V and AIDS, pelvic inflammation disease (PID), morbidity and death.


From the above, it seems convincing that the situation may not be different from what is happening among children in West Senatorial District of Bayelsa State where the present study is located. In order to make an attempt to help reduce or prevent child abuse among adolescents and probably, help to end the increase of adolescent who are abused, has prompted the researcher to embark up on the present study which is carried out determining the patterns of child abuse among in-school adolescents and preventive measures in West Senatorial District of Bayelsa State.

Purpose of the Study

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