1.1 Background to the Study

Child abuse has become a global problem that needs to be tackled if children are to be given the right to education and freedom. The issue of child abuse has been given serious attention in many parts of the world and Nigeria is not left out. Given this serious effort, one would have thought that this menace will not persist (Alexander, 2009).

Although child abuse occurs in Nigeria, it has received little attention. This is probably due to the emphasis placed on the more prevalent childhood problems of malnutrition and infection. Another possible reason is the general assumption that in every African society the extended family system always provides love, care and protection to all children. Yet there are traditional child rearing practices which adversely affect some children, such as purposeful neglect or abandonment of severely handicapped children, and twins or triplets in some rural areas. With the alteration of society by rapid socioeconomic and political changes, various forms of child abuse have been identified, particularly in the urban areas. These may be considered the outcome of abnormal interactions of the child, parents / guardians and society. They include abandonment of normal infants by unmarried or very poor mothers in cities, increased child labour and exploitation of children from rural areas in urban elite families, and abuse of children in urban nuclear families by child minders. Preventive measures include provision of infrastructural facilities and employment opportunities in the rural areas in order to prevent drift of the young population to the cities. This would sustain the supportive role of the extended family system which is rapidly being eroded. There is need for more effective legal protection for the handicapped child, and greater awareness of the existence of child abuse in the community by health and social workers (Brunk, Henggeler and Whelan, 1997).

A child is a person that has not attained the age of 18. For centuries, the Nigerian child has been seen as an instrument or property with no absolute privilege of its own. In the traditional African society the belief was that children should merely be seen and not heard. Children were not allowed to listen to adults’ discussion/conversation let alone make contributions. This situation was prevalent not only in the society but found its way into the educational system. Consequently, teachers only all owned children to make contributions when they deemed necessary (Chang, Theodore, Martin, and Runyan, 2008).

Recently, there has been serious concern about the child with the realization that children play important part in the family and the society. It is generally agreed that children are the future generation, the leaders of tomorrow and the potential flag bearers of any nation. To carry out these duties, the child therefore has certain rights that must be protected and not be trampled upon or denied (Craig and Sprang, 2007).

Child abuse can be defined as causing or permitting any harmful or offensive contact on a child’s body; and, any communication or transaction of any kind which humiliates, shames, or frightens the child. Some child development experts go a bit further, and define child abuse as any act or omission, which fails to nurture or in the upbringing of the children (Currie and Spatz, 2010).

The child abuse prevention and Treatment Dunn, Culhane, and Tassig (2010) defines child abuse and neglect as: a minimum, any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm. A child of any age, sex, race, religion, and socioeconomic background can fall victim of child abuse and neglect. There are many factors that may contribute to the occurrence of child abuse and neglect. Parents may be more likely to maltreat their children if they abuse drugs or alcohol. Some parents may not be able to cope with the stress resulting from the changes any may experience difficulty in caring for their children (Eisen, Goodman, Qin, Davis and Crayton, 2007).

Child abuse is the physical or emotional harm to children caused by parents, guardians or other adult members of the society, Achilles (2000). In the United States of example, physical abuses per a million people are reported each year. An approximately equal number of cases of serious neglect are reported. One third of all types of child abuse affect children under 1 year of age, one-third from ages 1 to 3 and one third over 3 years. Every country of the world has laws requiring physicians and other professionals to report suspect child abuse (Greenberg, Warwar, S., and Malcolm, W. (2008).

Oloko (2005) is of the opinion that the magnitude of child abuse neglects and its frequency of occurrence are such that it has attracted global attention for example, she claims that the protection of children from all forms of abuse has been a major crusade in our society and beyond. According to her, symposia were organized in Lagos arid other places to mark the day of the African child in which people participated. Representative from United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) were not left out. In addition, other organization such as the Organisation for African United (QUA) the International Labour Organisation (ILO) etc frowned at this phenomenon in the society.

Children are abused in many ways by either parents or the adult members of the society. The abuse ranges from sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, to total neglect which in any case leads to their negative social behavior in the society (Hildvard and Wolfe, 2002). Child sexual abuse and neglect are widely regarded as a cause of mental health problems in adult life. The possible influence of child sexual abuse on adult social and economic functioning has not received the attention it perhaps deserves, as well as documented difficulties that sexually abused children experience in the school situation with academic performance and behavior (Hussey, Chang and Kotch, 2006).

Macfie, Cicchetti and Toth, (2001) states that, the fact that the Nigerian children are subjected to various forms of abuse and neglect by individuals and the society does not means that it is legal and fashionable to treat children in such manner. He therefore, supports the opinion of the Nigeria constitution, which stipulates in chapter 11, section 18 that children of young persons and the aged in our society or communities are to be protected against moral or material neglect.

Reinert and Edwards (2009) states that in the United States of America, various laws are made in order to protect the interest of children. Their provision is further buttressed by the fact that the children must not be subjected to any kind of abuse or neglect. Moreso, as they symbolize the further growth of the society in which they live.

Children abuse has caused untold hardship on the children who are abused, especially children given to serve people as house helps, in many cases, children who serve as house helps do not go to school. Even, when they go to school their school fees are not paid promptly and their necessary schools materials such as school uniforms, textbooks, exercise books etc are not provided. This condition of being a house help lead a child to absenteeism, truancy and dropping out of school syndrome (Reinert and Edwards, 2009).

These in any case, lead to poor academic performance, anti social behavior and poor socio-economic status of the child when he/she becomes an adult member of the society. In many cases, child abuse has led to prostitution, and sexual harassment which in turn led to unwanted pregnancies, aborting, death or early motherhood without education. For example a girl child who hawks wares on the street may end up being a prostitute and consequently contracting sexually transmitted disease such as the deadly HIV/AIDS and this may lead to premature death and cutting short of her opportunity and career in life (Nwagbo, 2004).

Child abuse may be limited to the following factors: Lack of parental care, poverty, loss of parents or death of breadwinner(s) in the home, parental separation of marital divorce (Russell, 2004). Some of these factors can lead to a child being left in the hands of care-giver, such as step-parents/guardians etc who now mishandle the affairs of the child in the most unfortunate way or manner which contributes abuse to the child’s social behavior and cannot be over emphasized. Due to the abuse meted on the child by those who are supposed to take care of him /her, make the child to be socially maladjusted in the immediate community or society where he/she finds him/her self. This leads to social deviations and delinquencies which are anti-social behaviours or negative norms the society abhorrers and avoids (Romero, Donohue and Allen, 2010).

Bamidele (2003) state that children are commonly seen in Lagos hawking while their parents/guardians comfortably sit at home waiting for the proceeds, apart from not being in school, female children are given out in early marriages at a very tender age. Also, the female genital mutilation abounds in almost all parts of the country today, it is very pathetic to observe that despite media reports regarding its hazards some parents and guardians still subject their children or wards to this dangerous practice,. It is impossible to eradicate child abuse or neglect when in actual fact, parents/guardians, actively encourage it. For example, in some communities, parents actually give out their children or wards as house helps only to come at the end of the month for salary.

Not all children exposed to similar experiences of abuse and neglect are affected in the same way. A range of other life experiences and family circumstances both positive and negative impact on a child’s vulnerability or resilience. These are referred to as risk and protective factors”. Resilience refers to the ability of a child to cope and even thrive after a negative experience (child welfare information gateway, 2008). When a child who has experienced abuse or neglect has few protective factors (such as positive relationships with extended family and friends), the risk of more serious adverse outcomes increases. Risk factors that may contribute to poorer outcomes for children exposed to abuse and neglect include socio-economic disadvantage, social isolation, dangerous neighourhoods, large families and whether the child has a disability (Dubowitz and Benneth, 2007).

In spite of the risks of negative outcomes, some children exposed to maltreatment may emerge unscatted due to protective factors that strengthen their resilience (Runyon, Deblinger, Ryan and Thakkar-Kolar, 2004). Factors that contribute to a child’s resilience include child attributes (such as self-esteem and independence), features of the family environment and community resources (Mapp, 2006).

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The increase in the incidence of child abuse in the society has been of great concern to both the government and educationists. The issues of child abuse have been persistent in many parts of the country. Many children who are neglected by their parents are a times hooligans, robbers etc while the female ones go into prostitute and other related cases, such as rape, sexual harassment, drug abuse and addiction which is a deviant behavior in the society.

The rate of which adolescents are turning to become touts and hooligans in the society is one of the reasons this researcher is embarking on this study. This is because many students from good homes seem to turn out to have anti social

Behaviour. Perhaps due to the problem of parental abuse or neglect. The numbers of homeless, street trading, touts, area boys and girls have increased greatly overtime.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The objective of this study is to investigate the incidence and patterns of child abuse among primary school pupils in Lagos State. Other specific objectives of the study include:

  • To find out whether physical abuse of children influences their social behaviour.
  • To investigate whether a relationship exists between sexual abuse and children’s social behaviour.

1.4 Research Question

The following research questions will guide the conduct of this study:

To what extent is child abuse prevalent among primary school pupils?
What are the patterns of child abuse?
To what extent does physical abuse influence the social behaviour of children?
Is there any relationship between sexual abuse and children’s social behaviour?

1.5 Research Hypothesis

The following null hypothesis will be tested in the study:

There is no significant influence of physical abuse on children’s social behaviour.
There is no significant influence of sexual abuse on children’s social behavior.

1.6 Significance of the Study

The importance of this research work will be that it would provide more knowledge to the masses especially, the parents or guardians on the implications of any from of child abuse and neglect on adolescents and children.

It will also enlighten people on the different forms of abuse of children and maltreatment and various ways it would also suggest the best methods of handling the issue of child abuse in the society. As this has posed serious concerns to both the government and parents in the country today.

Not only that, new upcoming researchers and students would find this work a great treasure and reference material in their future work.

1.7 Scope of the Study

The study will be limited to the influence of child abuse on the social behavior of children in Ogudu Nursery Primary School, Ogudu Ojota Lagos State.

1.8 Operational Definition of Terms

  • Child Abuse

Child abuse is the physical, sexual, or emotional ill-treatment or neglect of a child, especially by those responsible for its welfare.

  • Parents

A parent is a caretaker of the offspring in their own species. In humans, a parent is of a child (where “child” refers to offspring, not necessarily age).

  • Pupil

A student in primary school under the direct supervision of a teacher or professor

  • Sexual Assault

Sexual activity that is deemed improper or harmful, as between an adult and a minor or with a person of diminished mental capacity. It is a statutory offense that provides that it is a crime to knowingly cause another person to engage in an unwanted sexual act by force or threat.

  • Child Neglect

failure of caretakers to provide adequate emotional and physical care for a child.

  • Child Maltreatment

Words or overt actions that cause harm, potential harm, or threat of harm to a child.

  • Primary school

A primary school is an institution in which children receive the first stage of compulsory education known as primary or elementary education


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