Child abuse is the physical or psychological maltreatment of a child. Harm or
threatened harm to a child’s health or welfare that occurs through
non-accidental physical or mental injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or
maltreatment, by a parent, a legal guardian, or any other person responsible for
child’s health or welfare, or by a teacher.
The World Health Organisation (WHO)
estimates that 40 million children below the age of 15 suffer from abuse and
neglect, and require health and social care. A child is a tender human being
which needs support in all forms for its all round development. The parents and
the family members are the ones present in the immediate environment of the
child to fulfill its need. It is the prime responsibility of the parents
especially the mother, to ensure the optimum climate for the child to grow and
develop. The mother should have knowledge regarding the child abuse and neglect.
It is very pathetic that many parents unknowingly abuse their child sometimes.
They do not differentiate between the methods of disciplining the child and the
form of abuse and neglect. Since they are unaware of what is abuse and neglect
it is very difficult for them to protect their children being abused by others.
The author is PhD Scholar, #1, Elim
Nagar II Main Road, Perungudi,
Need for the study: Each year, tens of thousands of children are traumatised by
physical, sexual, and emotional abusers or by caregivers who neglect them.
Neglect is a pattern of failing to provide for a child’s basic needs, to the
extent that the child’s physical and/or psychological well-being are damaged or
endangered. The scars of child abuse and neglect can be deep and long-lasting,
affecting not just abused children but society.
The UN Convention on the Rights
of Child, 1989 is the most important instrument in the history of child rights
at the international level. The Convention has been ratified by most of the
developed as well as developing countries, including India, which ratified the
Convention in 1992. The four major Articles pertaining to child abuse and
neglect in the Conventions are:
Article 3: Protect the best interests of
Article 19: Protect children from all forms of physical or mental
violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, mal-treatment or
exploitation, including sexual abuse while in the care of parents, legal
guardians or any other person in whose care they are;
Article 34: Undertake to
protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse;
35: Take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to
the abduction of sale of or traffic in children for any purpose or in any form.
There are four primary types of child abuse: (i) Physical abuse, (ii) Sexual
abuse, (iii) Emotional abuse, and (iv) Neglect.
Causes of child abuse: There are
many causes of child abuse such as parental stress, lack of nurturing qualities
necessary for child care, immaturity - a disproportionate number of parents who
abuse their children are teenagers, difficulty in controlling anger, personal
history of being abused, physical or mental health problems, such as depression
and anxiety, alcohol or drug abuse and personal problems such as marital
conflict, unemployment, or financial difficulties. In addition, parents also
think that children are property of their own and parents (especially fathers)
have the right to control their children in any way they wish. Children need to
be toughened up to face the hardships of life. The first reason is lack
knowledge on child abuse and child neglect.
So this study was undertaken in
Perungudi, Chennai, to assess the awareness level of the mothers regarding child
abuse and neglect so that actions can be taken to create awareness thereby
protecting the rights of the child.
Sample : All mothers who have
children less than 15 years and
who answered positively to the screening questions were included. From this, 50
mothers were selected by purposive sampling method. It is a mixed category of
housewives, working women of various age groups who were residing at Perungudi,
Screening questions: (i) Did your parents discipline you by corporal
punishment? (ii) Do you use corporal punishment as the method of disciplining
These two questions were asked to the mothers and those who
answered yes to these questions were included. The researcher assumed that the
disciplining methods, the samples experienced will have impact on disciplining
Setting: The study area (Perungudi) is a new settlement area in the
outskirts of Chennai. It has a mixed population of people of its own and people
from the other part of Tamil Nadu for various reasons.
Tools: The researcher conducted a structured interview in Tamil to
collect information from the subjects. The tool consisted of 3 parts. Part I
consisted of questions related to demographic variables such as age of the
mother, number of children, education of the mother, occupation and income of
the mother and religion. Part II consisted of questions related to source
of information regarding child abuse and whether you were abused by anybody
during your childhood? Part III also consisted of 15 five-point multiple
response questions related to child abuse. Part IV consisted of five
5-point multiple response questions
tions related to child neglect. In each questions of part III and IV there is
more than one right answer. All the right options were given score one and wrong
options were given zero score . Finally all the scores were counted and
percentages were calculated. It was predetermined that mothers who secure less
than 50 percent had Inadequate awareness, 51-75 percent had Moderately Adequate
awareness and 76 percent and above had Adequate awareness.
The content validity was obtained from the experts and the reliability was calculated
by the test re-test method and the score r=0.6. The standard responses were
chosen after a thorough review of literature.
Procedure: The researcher explained the purpose of the study. Then
the structured interview schedule was conducted in Tamil to collect information
from the mothers. The descriptive and Inferential statistics were used to
analyse the results.
Results and Discussion
64% mothers were in the age group of 21-30 years and 36% were in the age
group of 31-40 years.
36% mothers had single child and 56% mothers had two children.
96% were educated and 38% mothers completed the UG studies.
62% were housewives and the remaining were working women.
80% mothers were Hindu, nine (18%) mothers were Christian and only one (2%)
All mothers (100%) reported that they were disciplined
by their parents by beating and other forms of physical punishment and scolding.
All mothers (100%) reported that they beat their children and scold to
All samples (100%) expressed that corporal punishment used to discipline is
not an abuse.
32% samples reported that the source of information regarding child abuse was
television and 20% reported word of mouth as a source of information and 10%
from magazines. The remaining samples quoted all three as their source of
There was an association found between the knowledge level and educational
status at 0.5 % level on chi square test.
Table 1 shows the overall score of child abuse and neglect. Only 4 (8%) women had
adequate awareness and 34 (68%) had inadequate awareness and the remaining 12
(24%) women had inadequate awareness. Regarding the child neglect, 9 (18%) women
had adequate awareness, 12 (24%) had moderately adequate awareness and 29 (58%)
women had inadequate awareness. Regarding child abuse, 4 (8%) women had adequate
awareness, 13 (26%) women had moderately adequate awareness and 35 (70%) women
had inadequate awareness. Table 2 reveals the mean score and standard deviation
for various levels of awareness regarding the child abuse and child neglect.
From the above two tables it is clear that the awareness of the mother regarding
abuse and neglect is very low.
Initially all women reported that the child can be beaten and be given
corporal punishment to correct the wrong behaviours of the children. Some women
reported that they even physically restrain the children to prevent mischievous
At the end of interview, everybody was curious to know whether what they did was
right or wrong and how it could be prevented. All samples agreed that the child
abuse and neglect should be prevented and there should be some awareness
generation programme to create awareness among the public.
Children who were present at the time of data collection opposed the
mothers for giving wrong responses such as they never beat and scold their
children. These children were more helpful in eliciting the right response from
Implications for Nursing
Both in undergraduate and post graduate level, the nursing students should be
trained to identify the form of child abuse and neglect in all settings such as
Hospital, Community, and School etc. and to take immediate remedial actions. The
concepts and theories of child abuse and neglect should be given adequate
weightage in the nursing curriculum. Nurses have the opportunity to protect the
children from child abuse and neglect by educating mothers, other family
members, teachers, and others who are involved in the care and growth of
children. She also can join hand and raise her voice against child abuse and
neglect with other organisations.
Suggestion and Recommendations
Parents think that they have the right to punish their children not realising
the impact of such abuse done in the name of discipline and punishment.
The parents especially mothers should be taught about child abuse and
and how their children are abused by them without even realising the fact that
they themselves abuse their children.
There should be an awareness generation programme for parents and children
regarding child abuse and neglect and methods of discipline.
Large scale study can be conducted.
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3. Kenny MC (2004). Teachers’ attitudes toward and knowledge of child
maltreatment: Child Abuse Neglect, Dec; 28(12):1311-19
4. Ellen Jaffe-Gill MA , Jaelline Jaffe, Jeanne Segal (2007). Child Abuse
and Neglect: http://www.help guidc.org/
5. National Child Abuse Study (2008). Prayas Institute of Juvenile
Justice, http://www.prayas online.org/index.html 6. Child Abuse,
definition, prevention, neglect, types, treatment, articles (2008). http:// www.
i n d i a n c h i l d . c o m / child_abuse.htm.
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