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Child Abuse and Neglect

I am Iferika Chioma Favour. I am a new member who have the passion and zeal to write books both articles and novels.



Child abuse is a major problem that has been living with man and seen by many as one of his day to day activities. The study aimed to ascertain the managing child abuse and neglect in developing society with a focus on Anambra state, Nigeria. Methods: The study is a descriptive survey design using self-administered interviewer questionnaire. Systematic sampling technique was adopted in sampling subjects. Results: Findings showed that the most common associated factor with child abuse with parent/guardian is poverty (50.7%) and low social economic status (34.5%). The practices of child abuse are majorly concerned with starving the children (44.2%) and kicking/shaking the children (41.2%). The effects on the child abuse on the child and family could lead the abused children into early marriage (26.5%) and unwanted pregnancy (22.5%). Conclusion: The study indicated that child abuse in Anambra State is due to poverty/low socio-economic status. The practices of child abuse borders on starving the children, kicking/shaking them and that, the effects of child abuse could lead the children into early marriage and/or having unwanted pregnancy. Therefore, social awareness campaign on child abuse and effects should be adopted and effective child abuse laws should be enacted by the government and stiff penalties and sanctions should be melted out to the offenders.


There is no generally accepted definition for the term; child abuse; but it simply refers to the ill-treatment of a child by his parents or any other adult. Edu and Edu (1999) defined child abuse as a willful maltreatment of a child. Such maltreatment according to them can include acts of commission [abuse] and omission [neglect]. A narrow definition of child abuse is limited to life-threatening physical violence, including severe beatings which are inflicted on children by the adult members of the community. Olawale (1995) and Obidigbo (1999) defined child abuse and neglect as intentional , unintentional, and/or well-intentional acts , which endanger the physical, health, emotional, moral, and educational welfare of the child. According to the African network for the prevention and protection against child abuse and neglect (Anppcan 1991), child abuse and neglect comprise any act of omission and commission by adults capable of causing the child physical and emotional trauma. Olawale (1995), Kanu (1996) and Obidigbo (1996)

distinguished between child abuse and neglect. While child abuse consists of acts developed and commissioned to inflict harm directly or indirectly on a child, child neglect involves disregard to general needs of the child, which interfere with his/her welfare and development. This means that any abusive or neglectful act or deed meted on any person under the age of eighteen is regarded as child abuse and neglect.

A broader definition however lays emphasis on any treatment other than the most favorable care, and it includes neglect, sexual or emotional abuse and exploitation.

Whichever way, child abuse is the flagrant abuse of the children’s god-given and constitution-guaranteed freedom, comfort and peace, by adults in the society.

In Nigeria ,for example, the rights of citizens’ basic and fundamental rights in chapters 4 section 30,40 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria guarantees every citizens’ basic and fundamental human rights . Here, the constitution does not make any distinction between the rights of an adult and children. Thus, children are expected to enjoy these rights. With the menace of child abuse in the country, children are being denied some of these rights. This study therefore examines street hawking in Nigeria, with a view to identifying it’s consequences on children. It makes particular reference to Lagos, a populous city in south southern Nigeria.

Child Abuse in Nigeria

The economic divide, religious divide, environmental divide, and cultural divide are form of child abuse .Though, Nigeria is one of Africa’s largest economy, and despite that poverty and inequality are widespread and increasing in both rural and urban areas. Nearly two-thirds of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day

(purchasing power parity 2008) and the country has a gain co-efficient value of 0.49(undp,2009) cited in Nicola et al (2012). Similarly, the poverty has grievous potentials on children’s survival and impacts on protection needs, NPC,(2009). The less than five mortality rate is 171 per 1,000, ranging from 87 per 1,000 for the wealthiest families to 219 for the poorest (NPC, 2009). Malnutrition is a significant concern: 27% of Nigerian under five (between 2003 and 2008) was considered moderately/severe stunting (UNICEF, 2010) cited in Nicola et al (2012).

The poverty high level has forced many children into the labor market: 15 million Nigerian children are currently working to support their families and pay their school fees (UNICEF Nigeria, 2006). The highlighted work is in most cases in the informal labor market, hawking goods on the streets or highway or harvesting crops for approximately 20 hours each week (Okpukpara & odurukwe, 2006) cited in Nicola et al (2012). it is unaccepted that majority of these children revealed that long hours cause them to miss at least one day of school each week and this may cause low performance in academic achievement in the school. The net attendance ratio for primary school in Nigeria is quite low, at 62.1(NPC 2009), for secondary school, it is lower, at only 4.9. There is significant variation across the country. In urban areas 74.1; while in rural areas it is 57. The south east has the nation’s best primary school enrolment ratio, at 82.8; the north-west, on the other hand has only 43.7 cited in Nicola et al (2012).

Child abuses in Nigeria are seen in various forms and degrees from sex and possessions of property. Female child are not allowed to posses land or landed property mostly in south eastern Nigeria. This is because male counterparts are superior to female counterparts. Therefore, female are seen as not part of the family immediately after marriage and they are not trained in school like the male counterparts, the assumption is that the girl child education ends in the kitchen. Any money invested in training a woman is considered as a waste of resources. Similarly, the southern eastern Nigeria victimizes children from going to school but encourage their children to learn trade in the urban cities of the country where a child will be under exploitative labour and signed to stay up to 5 to 10 year’s apprenticeship. At sometime the child will be alleged to have stolen some money and other related offences and this usually terminates the agreement between the child apprentice and the master, leaving the child to suffer social and psychological trauma in future. Domestic help seen mostly, in our various cities today, are from poor parents who wish that their children would be catered for in doing small jobs in various homes, but these children are exposed to rape, kidnapping, and rituals and at different time sent to street hawking/highway to assist the family that brought them to town.

WHO (2010) contends that neglect and abuse often causes stress that is associated with disruption in early brain development. Severe stress can lead to physical consequences such as impairment in the nervous system and immune system. Because of physically damaged stress victims of abuse experience, they are at greater risk for future problems such as obesity, smoking, and alcohol misuse (who, 2010). Some scholars cited in Friedman, (2010) have it that those adults who were abused as children might experience the long term consequences of low economic well being in adulthood. It is evident that truancy, suspensions, discrimination and shared depression of mind has a negative influence on the child.

In other to correct the ugly scenario the number of victims and the high increase of wide consequences, more need to be done from the angle of abuse and Prevention which borders on;

  • Family
  • Cultural
  • Values
  • Economic/social
  • Religious practice/ environmental

The effect of highlighted variables in the model has created a gap between the rich parents and poor parents and continent included, when harvested are seen directly and indirectly affecting the larger society, therefore called child abuse. Supporting the argument, the attachment theory has it that parents are sanctuary of safety through all of early childhood. It is convincing that secure attachments cause children to develop internal model of self-competence and a model of dependability or others. On the contrary, insecure attachments, however promote feelings of threat, rejection and personal unworthiness, (Tarabulsy, Pascuzzo, Moss, St-larent, Benier& Cyr, 2008). Thus what mostly, observed in Nigeria nation are significant percentages of insecure attachments which pave way for child abuse; the information process theory that possesses the mind and thought would assist in upbringing of the child depending on positivity/negativity of environment.

Child abuse is a complex phenomenon with multiple causes Fontana (1994). No single factor can be identified as to why some adults behave violently towards children. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) identify multiple factors at the level of the individual, their relationships, their local community, and their society at large that combine to influence the occurrence of child maltreatment. At the individual level, such factors include age, sex, and personal history, while at the level of society; factors contributing to child maltreatment include cultural norms, encouraging harsh physical punishment of children, economic inequality, and the lack of social safety nets, World Health Organization and International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and neglect (2006). WHO and ISPCAN state that understanding the complex interplay of various risk factors is vital for dealing with the problem of child maltreatment. The American Psychoanalyst Elisabeth Young- Bruchi maintains that harm to children is justified and made acceptable by widely held beliefs in children’s inherent subservience to adults; resulting in a largely unacknowledged prejudice against children she termed childism. She contends that such prejudice, while not the immediate cause of child maltreatment, must be investigated in order to understand the motivation behind a given act of abuse, as well as to shed light on societal failures to support children’s needs and development in general. Young-Bruchi (2012), the founding editor of International

Journal of Children’s right, Michael Freeman, also argues that the ultimate causes of child abuse lie in prejudice against children, especially the view that human rights do not apply equally to adults and children, He writes, ‘the roots of child abuse lie not in parental psycho-pathology or in socio-environmental stress (through their influences cannot be discounted) but in a sick culture which denigrates and depersonalizes, which reduces children to property, to sexual objects so that they become the legitimate victims of both adult violence and lust” (Freeman,1997).

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Factors Precipitating Child Abuse and Neglect in Nigeria

Understanding the factors that contribute to child abuse problem will help us frame our own local analytical questions, determine good effectiveness measures, recognize key intervention points, and select appropriate responses


Statistics have shown in 2005 that across all types of maltreatment, newborns to three-year-olds had the highest victimization rates and more than half were seven or younger. About half of all victims were boys, and half girls. In America, White and Hispanic children have lower victimization rates than children of other ethnicities. The victims profile is somewhat different depending on the individual type of maltreatment.

Physical abuse: the risk of physical abuse decreases as the child gets older, although adolescents are also victims of it. Boys and girls are equally at risk of minor physical abuse, although boys are slightly more likely to sustain injuries. Physical abuse occurs disproportional among economically disadvantaged families; income also affects the severity of abuse. Caretakers who physically abuse their children tend to experience high stress (e.g., from single-parenting, health problems, unemployment, poverty) and may have poorly developed coping


They may also struggle with personality factors such as low self-esteem, poor impulse control, depression, and low frustration tolerance, their expectation for their child may exceed the child’s developmental capacity. As a result, they may not interact well with their Children and they tend to use more punitive discipline. Perhaps because mothers spend more time with their children, perpetrators are slightly more likely to be female than male. Further, normal adolescent defiance and rebellion increases family tension and may frustrate parents, who respond with excessive punishment. When confronted, physically abusive caretakers tend to offer illogical, unconvincing, or contradictory explanations for child’s injury.

Children are at highest risk of sexual abuse from age’s seven to twelve, although sexual abuse among every young child does occur and is often undetected because of their inability to communicate what is happening to them. Sexual abuse victims tend to be selected because they are vulnerable in some way (e.g very young, passive, quiet, and needy). Girls are significantly more likely to be sexually abused than boys, although it is possible that boys are simply less likely to report their victimization.

Neglect: the risk of neglect generally declines with age. The mean age of victims of neglect is six years old. Boys and girls are equally at risk of neglect.

Children are never responsible for their victimization, but certain characteristics increase their vulnerability.

Children’s need for attention and affection is their single most exploitable characteristics, particularly in the case of sexual abuse, a trusted adult may take advantage of a child’s natural curiosity, desire to be included, and need for affection. The relationship between children and their caretakers makes it difficult for children to interpret what is happening to them as “abuse”. A victim may also feel a sense of loyalty to the abuser, and while the victim may want the abuse to stop, but he or she may not want the perpetrator to be punished. Children with disabilities are extremely dependent on adults, and its dependence limits their ability to protect themselves and, in some situation, they may have the ability to disclose what is happening to them.


Child abuse occurs in all cultural, ethnic, occupational, and socioeconomic groups.

A parents ‘s likelihood of mistreating his or her children is rarely the result of any single factors , but rather results from a combination of circumstances and personality types . While certain factors may be prevalent among perpetrators, the mere presence of a situation or particular trait does not mean that maltreatment will always occur.

Family Factors

Children in single –parent families may be at higher risk of physical abuse and neglect, although the effects of poverty, stress, social isolation, and lack of support are all contributing factors. Risk is reduced for the children of single mothers when the children have a relationship with their fathers. In two-parent families, the risk of maltreatment is greater if marital conflict or domestic violence is also present. Neglectful parents tend to have more children and more people living in the household. Neglected children’s homes are characterized by chaos and an everchanging constellation of adult and child residents.

Environment factors

Families living in areas challenged by poverty and employment, particularly when coupled with the individual and family factors described above, are at higher risk of child abuse and neglect. The degree of social support available to parents, along with community attitudes about raising children and using punishment, can also contribute to the risk of child maltreatment.


The different forms of abuse stated above occur in schools in very subtle way and could have damaging effects on children’s educational development. Some of these abuses are enumerated hereunder. This is exhaustive but shows that abuse is ongoing in some schools.

Physical abuse is one form of abuse that persistently occurs in schools especially in the form of correction or corporal punishment. According to Straus (1994) corporal punishment is the use of physical force with the intension of causing bodily pain, but not injury for the purpose of correction or control. In many schools in the USA, corporal punishment is being held in high esteem as a way of correcting and instilling discipline in young children. Even though spanking is culturally approved for correcting children most times, some teachers do this in anger and in the process the child is left injured and physically inflicted with bruises and pains.

Most times, the teachers fail to listen to students’ apparent show of some misbehavior. They hold more strongly to their beliefs and ideals that they are unwilling to hear the students out. Thus they unleash corporal punishment on the students made them scared and unwilling to attend school. Agnew (1983) however advised against the use of physical punishment as it may lead to children committing delinquent act such as abandoning school.

In recent times, the use of more positive forms of behavior modification is advocated such as persuasion, appeal to reason and good judgment and the reward for desirable forms of behavior. In addition, there is also the belief that there should be unconditional acceptance and regard for the learner and recognition that the child is worthy and should be treated not as an animal but a human being with feelings. It is believed that if these strategies are used, children will be willing to attend and be active partakers in the education system.

Confining students to dark rooms is used in many schools as a form of punishment. In one school, a child reported that those who did not pay School fees were packed into the assembly hall and looked up until the school was over. The school ended up punishing innocent children instead of their parents whose responsibility it is to pay the fees. The children are not only embarrassed but missed out on what was taught during those periods of confinement as those lessons would not be repeated again even after they had their fees paid. Teachers have also been found wanting for their inability to provide love, support, care and guidance to children under their care. A particular instance was reported where a child had stayed for the first three years in school and could not handle a pencil. On interview, it was found that the teacher completely abandoned the child because he was slow in learning. It took the intervention of a lesson teacher and parents extra coaching to train the child to write. This shows the inability of the teacher to provide appropriate guidance needed by the child. Bullying is another form of emotional abuse that takes place in schools.

The senior or older students who should provide emotional support for the younger and new students easily bully them. This can easily affect the children and make them withdraw from associating with other peers and this could lead to personal – social maladjustment. The points enumerated show that teachers and school authorities intentionally or unintentionally indulge in emotional abuse which ultimately affects the child’s ability to learn. This can also distract them from

gaining meaningfully from the process of education leading to eventual abandonment of school. Learning can only take place in a conducive environment that promotes cordial relationship between the teacher and the learner. Thus the United Nations convention on the rights of the child and the African union charter on the rights and welfare of the child provide for the protection of the child against physical and psychological abuse, discrimination and all forms of threat, be it with weapons or words.


Children who suffer abuse and neglect may sustain a variety of devastating physical, psychological, cognitive and behavioral problems. The effects vary with the age and personality of the victims and also with the type and duration of the abuse. Physical consequences may range from minor injuries to severe brain damages, while psychological harms range from lack of self-esteem to learning disorders to serious mental illness. Many abused and neglected children develop a behavioral problem that interferes with their education and lead to their involvement in delinquency. Maltreated children may run away from home, get involved with drugs and alcohol, experience intimacy problems, and self –harm. Research has shown that significant proportions of adults who were abused as children go on to abuse their own children. Serious negative outcomes are more likely if the abuse occurs over a long period of time, if it involves violence, or if offenders are the victim’s father. While many maltreated children experience immediate and lifelong problems, many do not.

Researchers on promoting resiliency in children has found that abuse negative effects can be buffered when children can forms trusting relationships with adults, have structure and rules at home , are encouraged to be autonomous , and have access to health , education , welfare and social services . Not only does child abuse and neglect harm the victims themselves, but also it harms families and communities. Non offending parents, not only must help their children recover from maltreatment, but also must deal with their own complicity in permitting the maltreatment to occur, or in failing to recognize the signs of abuse in their children. The presence of child abuse and neglect in a community reflects attitudes about child rearing, punishment, and acceptance of violence as a solution to problems. Effects of child abuse and neglect include delinquency, substance abuse, and violence, efforts to reduce the incidence of child abuse and neglect are essential to long -term public health and public safety efforts.


Child maltreatment is a leading cause of childhood serious injuries and fatalities.

As the most widely available helping professionals in communities, police have a natural role in preventing and responding to child abuse and neglect. Not only are police legally mandated to enforce the law and protect residents and maintain safety, but also they are generally committed to children’s welfare.


Under the Nigerian law, a person can be classified into four folds namely: an infant

(age 1-6years), a child (age 7-13 years), a young person (14-17years) and an adult (18years and above). However, the child Rights Act 2003 classified any person who is below the age of 18 years as a child. In the same vein, the convention on the Rights of the child (CRC) defines a child, as any human being who is below the age of 18 years except the law of the child’s country states otherwise. For the purposes of this work, the child is referred to as any human being below the age of 18years. It is important to note that labour Act, Criminal Code, Penal Code, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigerian Constitution. (1999) as amended, Child Right Act (2003) and the convention on the right of the child (CRC) to which Nigeria is a signatory, a child is defined as, a human being below the Age of

18years, except the law of the child’s country stated otherwise, some of the highlights of the convention are as follows:

  1. Every child has the right to his/her life and the development of body and mind.
  2. Government of member nation must ensure that child suffers no


  1. Children shall not be forced to leave or be separated from parents unless by the order of the court of law.
  2. The upkeep and upbringing of the child is the responsibility of the parents but the states shall assist and support the parents.

The thrust of these rights is to assure that every child born into world is accorded in his or her childhood and youth, the fullest opportunities for self-realization, by being entitled to opportunities and facilities which guarantee healthy and normal development in all spheres of human life.


The law governing the rights of a child in labour issues in Nigeria is the labour Act. Section 59 (b) of the Act provides that no young person shall be employed in any work which is injurious to his health or which is dangerous or immoral. The Act further provides that no child under the Age of 16 years shall be employed in circumstances in which it is not reasonably possible for him to return each day to the place of residence of his parents or guardians. The section forbids a child less than 16 years from working underground or on machines. It further forbids young persons from working for longer period than four hours in one day. It places additional restrictions on the employment of a child or young person on a ship or any vessel and it prohibits absolutely, the night employment of young persons. From the above, one can see that the labor Acts does not prohibit child labour, rather it only places restriction on where, when and how child’s labor may be employed.


Our guiding laws are the criminal code applicable to the southern part of Nigeria and the penal code applicable to the northern part of Nigeria. Section 300-302 of the criminal code becomes imperative for our consideration. section 300 in particular states inter-alia:…it is the duty of every person having charge of another who is unable, by reason of age, to withdraw such charge and who is unable to provide himself with the necessities of life, whether the charges is undertaken under a contractor or is imposed by law which arises by reason of any act , whether lawful or unlawful, of the person who has such charge to provide for the other person the necessities of life, and he is held to have caused any consequences which result to the life or health of the other person by reason of any omission to perform that duty. This section, like sections 301 and 302 of the criminal code criminalizes the omission or failure to provide necessities of life to a child and imposes liability for any consequences which may arises from such omission or



The 1999 constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria does not specifically distinguish between the applicability of its provision relating to children and adults. But it Enumerates under its chapter IV certain rights tagged fundamental human Rights which are Inalienable rights of all citizens of the country, children and young person‘s inclusive . These are rights to personal liberty, human dignity and freedom from slavery and torture, freedoms of thoughts, expression, association and peaceful assembly, movement, fair hearing in both civil and criminal cases, freedom from discrimination on ground of sex, race or ethnicity, political persuasion etc.

The rights enumerated above are recognized and confirmed by both the African charter on human and people‘s rights and the United Nations Bill of rights on civil rights and liberty. In addition to the above, there are fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy set out in chapter D section 13-24 of the constitution. Section 17 (3f) in particular provides that the state shall direct its policy towards ensuring that children, young persons and aged are protected against any exploitation whatsoever against moral and material neglect. This specifically addresses the protection of children against exploitation in form of child labour in all forms (Nigerian Constitution 1999, as Amended).


Several Rights of Nigerian child are listed under the child’s Rights Act, 2003 but those that are directly related to our research are:

v Right to Dignity: section 11 of the Act provides that every child is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly, no child shall be separated from his parents against the wish of the child.

v Right to Education section 15 states that, every child has the right to free, compulsory and universal basic Education at least up to junior secondary


v Right not to be exposed to narcotic Drug

v Protection against abduction: no person shall remove or take a child out of lawful custody.

v Protection against Child labor: section 26 of the Act States that, no child shall be subjected to any forced or exploitative labour or employed to work in any capacity except work of domestic character.

v Protection against buying, selling begging and prostitution. Section 28 outlaws buying, selling, hiring or dealing in a child. A child must not be used for the purpose of begging for alms, hawking of foods, trafficking or debt bondage.

The legal frameworks examined so far, clearly show that, children must be protected and taken care of by all means by the parents and by the government of every nation. They are set of people that are helpless and therefore, must be helped by all available means.


Street hawking is a negation of the international convention on the rights of the child. It is indeed inhuman for anyone to engage a child in money-making venture. Such a child is denied basic education which is another right of every child. Apart from these consequences of child labour we have discussed, there is still the problem of wears and tears. Children who engage in work may wear away before they actually reach the age in which they are expected to work. Some sustained life-long injuries which would hinder them from contributing meaningfully to development when they are expected to. Nigeria should therefore, practically demonstrate her commitment to the global fight against child abuse in all its ramifications.

This paper has been able to show that child abuse and neglect is a global problem that takes place in man settings; such as the schools and homes. Child abuse as discussed has serious implications on the educational system in Nigeria. It presents a serious draw back on the child abused and it has a great implication for the educational sector in Nigeria. Child educational development hinders societal growth and development. The problem of child abuse in the education system requires adequate and efficient handling in order to improve educational development.

The conclusion of the present investigators is that child abuse and neglect is a reality in this country in this 21st century. The most pathetic aspects are child labour, child trafficking, child prostitution, alms-begging and ritual killings. All the stakeholders in child development and welfare need to redirect their focus on these areas. It is a truism that if children are not properly cared for, they may not grow up as responsible adults. Since it is responsible citizens that enhance national development, anyone can guess the kind of problems awaiting the nation in the nearest future if child abuse and neglect is not given proper attention.


  1. Government should ensure improvement in living standard of the people so that they would not continue using children as hawkers and cheap labourers.
  2. Education should really be free and made compulsory for children in all states of the federation in order to reduce incidence of child abuse and neglect.
  3. The National and all states’ House of Assembly should deem it fit to pass the Child Rights Act in order to guide against child abuse and neglect.
  4. The Non-Government Organizations should invigorate their efforts on massive campaign against child abuse and neglect.
  5. Children should be taught safety strategies against kidnappers and ritual-killers while going to or coming from school.
  6. Government as a matter of urgency should cushion the economic problem of the parents to meet the basic necessities of their children.
  7. There should be public enlightenment programmes to combat mass ignorance and public awareness on the right to freedom from all forms of child abuse.
  8. As much as possible, teachers/caregivers should avoid the use of corporal punishment because it only teaches children that violence is the best way of maintaining control and it encourages them to hit other children,
  9. There should be provision of nurturing and supportive child friendly school, learning environment free from noise, distractions, discrimination and abuse of any kind.
  10. A child should not be disciplined when the adult’s anger is out of control
  11. Intense awareness should be created among teachers and school managers using seminars, workshops and training programmes about what constitutes child abuse.
  12. All forms of abuse should be exposed to all class of caregivers so as to draw their attention to some of the unintentional acts that bother on child abuse.
  13. Teaching profession should be professionalized to ensure that there is no one teaching as a second best option, this would ensure that people in this profession really see it as their contribution to societal development.
  14. Penalty for teachers who commit sexual abuse with their students should be severely dealt with in order to deter other perpetrators.


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