The study sought to find out the influence of parental socio-economic status on the incidence of child abuse and neglect among primary school pupils in Aguata education zone of Anambra State. Three major attributes of socio-economic status (parents’ income, parents’ education and parents’ occupation) were considered. The study adopted Ex-post facto research design. Three research questions and three hypotheses were formulated to guide the study. Sample consisted of 618 primary six pupils drawn from schools in Aguata education zone through simple random sampling. The instrument used for data collection was parental socio-economic status and incidence of child abuse and neglect questionnaire. The overall reliability coefficient of the instrument was found to be 0.83. Data collected were analyzed using analysis of variance (ANOVA). The finding of the study revealed that parents’ level of income significantly influences the incidence of child abuse and neglect. It was also revealed that parents’ level of education significantly influences the incidence of child abuse and neglect. Furthermore, it was discovered that parent’s occupation significantly influences the incidence of child abuse and neglect.

The implications of the findings were discussed and appropriate suggestions and recommendations were made.



Background of the Study

Procreation is a phenomenon that ensures the survival and continuity of a nation. However, the rearing pattern of the children that are products of wedlock is a crucial task that is significant in determining the quality of citizens that make up a particular society. It is disappointing to note that juvenile cases and other social vices that characterized our society today are traceable to bad child patterns of many homes. Children who have passed through such homes were either battered, abandoned, or abused in any other form. They were consequently toughened and eventually become liabilities to the community rather than assets. In Nigeria today, the rate of child abuse and neglect have assumed a worrisome and alarming proportion (Semenitani, 1998).

Children are regarded as precious gifts from God. It is rather outrageous and unfortunate that these same children are subject to abuse and neglect. Child abuse and neglect is one of the most rampant societal malaise facing societies today. The ill-treatment of children by those who are supposed to care for them has been recognized as a major problem in child upbringing in the society. Child abuse and neglect is a prevalent problem all over the world and Nigeria is no exception.

There is no commonly accepted definition of child abuse and neglect. Ohia, Soronnadi, Udemezue and Okonkwo, (2002) define child abuse and neglect;

as a situation in which a child is suffering serious physical injury, which was not inflicted upon him by accident, but by a deliberate act or omission, is suffering harm by reason of neglect, malnutrition or sexual abuse, is growing without necessary and basic physical care, and is growing-up under conditions, which threaten his physical and emotional survival (P. 3).

According to Jones (1982), child abuse and neglect are seen as two separate phenomenons. He defines child abuse as inflicting serious physical, physiological and sexual injury on children through non accidental means, while child neglect on the other hand is defined as endangering physical, mental or emotional condition of children through improper care. Crystal (1995) linking both child abuse and neglect, opined that child abuse may be physical, sexual, emotional or through neglect. National Child Rights Implementation Committee (NCRIC,1995) defines child abuse and neglect as any form of cruelty to a child’s physical, moral or mental well-being. According to the Department of Justice, Canada (2001), the term child abuse refers to the violence, maltreatment or neglect that a child or adolescent may experience while in the care of someone they either trust or depend on, such as parents, siblings, other relatives caregivers or guardians.

Public Health Agency of Canada (2003) divided child abuse and neglect into five categories, namely: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse,

neglect and exposure to domestic violence. Physical abuse involves deliberately using force against a child in such a way that the child is either injured or is at risk of being injured. It may consist of just one incident or may happen repeatedly. For those who survive, the emotional scars are often deeper than the physical scars (Loo, Bala, Clarke and Hornick, 1999). This type of abuse includes excessive beating, slapping, sticking, kicking, battering, burning, bruising, corporal punishment among others (Wikipedia, no date).

According to Loo, Bala, Clarke and Hornick, (1999) sexual abuse occurs when a child is used for sexual purposes by an adult or adolescent. It involves exposing a child to any sexual activity or behaviour. Sexual abuse does not always consist of penetration. Okpala (2010) sees sexual abuse as a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent or caregiver abuses a child through sexual stimulation. There are eight forms of sexual abuse; penetration – intercourse, incest, rape or sodomy, attempted penetration, oral sex, fondling – touching, or kissing a child’s genitals, making a child fondle the adult’s genitals, sex talk – telling “dirty” stories; voyeurism – forcing the child to undress, spying on a child in the bathroom or bedroom, exhibitionism – showing sex organs to a child, forced observation of sexual acts, showing pornographic materials, group sex including a child. Exploitation – sexual exploitation such as enticing children to pornographic sites or materials on the internet, luring children through internet to meet for sexual liaisons, exposing

children to pornographic movies or magazines, child prostitution or using a child in the production of pornography, such as film or magazine.

Neglect includes the situation in which children have suffered harm, or their safety or physical, psychological or emotional development has been endangered as a result of the caregivers’ failure to provide for or protect them (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2003). Neglect is often chronic and it usually involves repeated incidents. Neglect includes failing to provide a child with love, safety and a sense of worth. Another aspect of child abuse is emotional abuse. This is a difficult category to document since the effects of emotional value tend to become apparent over time. It involves harming a child’s sense of self and can include acts (or omissions) that result in or place a child at risk of serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional or mental health problems (Kassan 2005). There are four forms of emotional abuse: Verbal abuse; psychological maltreatment; inadequate nurturance/affection; and exposure to non-intimate violence (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2003).

Exposure to domestic violence is another form of child abuse. In this case, children are exposed to violence between persons who have intimate relationship. These children display emotional and behavioral problems as though they were physically abused. Child labour/exploitation is also a form of child abuse. It takes different forms like hawking of all kinds of items, excessive house working, selling in shops, restaurants, hotels, among others when the children should have been in schools or at home studying or doing

their home work. Child trafficking involves the movement of children from place to place by force, coercion or deception into situations where they are economically or sexual exploited (Okpara, 2010).

Consequently, it will be difficult to discuss the issue of child abuse and neglect in Nigeria without a look at the socio-economic status which has great influence on the incidence of child abuse and Neglect. Socio-Economic Status (SES) is often measured as a combination of education, income and occupation, (Ezewu 1985). It is commonly conceptualized as the social standing or class of an individual or group, when viewed through a social class lens, privilege; power and control are emphasized (Calhoun, Hemingway, and Poulter, 1998). Bradley and Corwyn (2002) defined socio-economic status (or socio-economic position) as a person’s position in a society using criteria such as income, level of education, occupation, value of property owned and so on. Socio-economic status (SES) can be high, average or low. It is observed that people of low socio-economic status often engage in child abuse and neglect due to poverty, low income earnings, low educational background.

To this background, Chen and Patergon (2006) maintain that low socio- economic status and its correlates, such as lower education, poverty, and poor health ultimately affect Nigerian children. Research indicates that socio- economic status is the key factor that influences quality of life for children, youths and families. Socio-economic status affect human functioning in many ways including development across the life span, psychological health, physical

health of a child which in turn brings about child abuse and neglect in our societies.

Poverty is defined in both absolute and relative terms. Absolute poverty refers to a state of lacking the most basic requirements of life. Relative poverty refers to lacking the resources required to participate in the lifestyle and consumption patterns enjoyed by others in society. As such, poverty is a multidimensional concept that can include maternal deprivation, exclusion from social networks and isolation from community life (NCRIC, 1995).

In the views of Ondersma (2002), poverty is a reliable predictor of child abuse and neglect. Among low-income families, those with family exposure to substance use to exhibit the highest rates of child abuse and neglect. Melki, Beydoun, Khogali, Tamim and Yenis (2004) stressed that low socio-economic status can be linked to domestic crowding, a condition which has negative consequences on children including higher psychological stress and poor health outcomes.

In addition, inequality refers to a condition in which separate groups differ in terms of a defined variable. The defined variable can relate to socio- economic status (hence terms such as socio-economic inequality, economic inequality and income inequality). Evidence are abounds that children from low socio-economic status or impoverished settings are much more likely to be absent from school throughout their educational experiences (Khang, 2003). Chen and Paterson (2006) suggest that children from low socio-economic

backgrounds are likely to have higher physiological markers of chronic stressful experiences, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect.

However, Lynch and Kaplan (2000), indicated that general health and well-being of a child are mostly affected in a number of ways by individual socio-economic factors and environmental socio-economic factors at both the family and community levels. Individual socio-economic position than to absolute poverty, and are affected by social and structural variables; such as social attitudes toward disadvantaged people and the degree to which supports and services are available Being raised in a family characterized by low socio- economic status has been found to contribute negative outcomes during childhood like sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and a host of others. In addition, Acheson (1999) indicates that living in a socio-economically disadvantaged community can contribute to child abuse and neglect or negative outcomes for child development.

Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Education according to Eke (2011) “is a vital instrument for social and economic mobility and instrument for transformation of society, a weapon for acquiring skills, relevant knowledge and habit for surviving in the changing world”. It is important to note that the purpose of education is to guide human beings to achieve the basic life goals, multiply and act positively in caring for the environment and contributing to the society. According to Okpala (2010),

education is more than schooling, it is the process of dispelling human ignorance of the world as well as developing the inherent potentials for perfection. A right for education has been created and recognized by some jurisdictions. Since 1752, Article 2 of the first Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, obliges all signatory parties to guarantee the right to education. At the global level, the United Nations’ International Convention on Economic, Social and cultural Rights of 1966 guarantees this right under its Article 13 (Public Health Agency Canada, 2003).

Child abuse and neglect is not a new thing in Nigeria, and Nigeria

government has promulgated laws to curb the social vices, still it is at its highest escalating point. There are socio-economic rights, the political rights, the private and personal rights just to mention a few. The socio-economic rights as published in Ambakogu (2004) includes, the right to survive (Article 5), the right to health (Article 14) the right to education (Article 11), the right to be protected from all forms of economic exploitation (Article 15) among others. Sequel to the above, it is necessary that every Nigerian child is accorded a right to good life, a right to education, a right to be protected from all forms of abuse and neglect. In view of this, the researcher is inspired to investigate the influence of socio-economic status or position on the incidence of child abuse and neglect in Aguata Education Zone of Anambra state.

Statement of the Problem

Children are the biological future of the human race and their healthy growth and development should be of serious concern to everybody in society. Child development is largely determined by the quality of care received by the child. This explains why the United Nations (UN) Convention on the rights of the child provided that children in the care of a parent, guardian, teacher or any other person who has the care of children should protect them from all forms of torture or inhuman treatment and especially physical or mental abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, the rights of the child have not been protected by adult.

Studies have revealed that adults in many cases do not regard some of their violent behaviours toward children as abusive, but perceived as corrective measures in the best interest of the child. In this context, according to Ohia etal (2002) and Okpala (2010) these abuse are resultant influence of socio-economic status (low or high). Thus, the child may be battered, deprived, castigated or even abandoned in extreme cases by parents, guardians or caregivers when he or she misbehaves.

Regrettably, despite governmental regulations, decrees, enactments and laws on child’s right, child abuse and neglect still persist. Could socio-economic status be responsible for abuse and neglect of children? What influence has socio-economic status on the incidence of child abuse and neglect. In this premise, the problem of this study therefore is to investigate the influence of

socio-economic status on the incidence of child abuse and neglect in Aguata Education Zone of Anambra State.

Purpose of the Study

The general purpose of this study is to investigate the influence of parental socio-economic status on the incidence of child abuse and neglect among primary school pupils in Aguata Education Zone of Anambra State. Specifically, specifically, the study determined:

1. The influence of high socio-economic status SES of parents on child abuse and neglect.

2. The influence of average SES of parent on child abuse and neglect.

3. The influence of low SES of parents on child abuse and neglect

4. The characteristics of child abuse and neglect in Aguata education zone

Significance of the Study

This study is important considering its theoretical basis. The study is based on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs which emphasized that there exist needs arranged in a hierarchy of satisfaction levels. Any deprivation of these needs to children is bound to affect their social, emotional, physical and intellectual development. Also the social learning theory of Albert Bandura (1977) emphasized the importance of observing and modeling the behaviours, attitudes and emotional reactions of others.

The findings of the study will be useful to a number of people such as parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers, law makers, researchers and

psychologist in various ways. Specifically, parents, guardians and caregivers will now be able to know the type of work to give to children and where to draw the line while training them. It will be significant to parents as it will arm them with knowledge about the dangers of child abuse and neglect and the impact of socio-economic compulsions on the general well-being of their children.

The study will also be significant to teachers, Lawmakers, researchers, psychologist and many more as they will find it useful in monitoring the forms of child abuse and neglect. The curriculum planners will find it useful in that it will help them see the need to include the teaching of children’s rights in the curriculum while reviewing the curriculum. If the rights are included in the curriculum children will be favoured and know when their rights have been violated. The findings of the study will serve as reference materials to other researchers, trained professionals like psychologists, early childhood experts to monitor the influence of socio-economic status on the incidence of child abuse and neglect. Finally, it will also supply relevant data that will help reduce the incidence of child abuse and neglect in the society.

Scope of the Study

The scope of this study is delimited to Aguata Education Zone in Anambra state which comprises three Local Government Areas, involving all the parents in the zone. The content scope of this study will address the area of income inequality, low education, poverty, and employment (engagement) in Aguata Education Zone of Anambra state

Research Questions

The following research questions will guide this study.

1. What is the influence of high socio-economic status (SES) of parents on child abuse and neglect?

2. What is the influence of average socio-economic status of parents on child abuse and neglect?

3. What is the influence of low socio-economic status of parents on child abuse and neglect?

4. What are the characteristics of child abuse and neglect in Aguata education zone?


The following hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significant.

(1) The influence of parent’s high socio-economic status on child abuse and neglect is not significant.

(2) The influence of average socio-economic status of parents on child abuse and neglect is not significant.

(3) The influence of low socio-economic status of parents on child abuse and neglect is not significant.




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