Background of the Study
Ika South is a Local Government Area of Delta State, Nigeria. Its
headquarters are in the town of Agbor. It has an area of 436km2 and a
population of 62,594 (Onyeche, 2012).
Child abuse and neglect is a social and public health problem in
Nigeria, as well as a children’s rights issue. Abuse and neglect can
lead to a wide range of adverse consequences for children and young
people. There is generally not a single factor that results in the abuse
or neglect of a child; it is usually a combination of various factors.
In addition, the duration (such as the duration of an illness) or
intensity (such as the level of drug or alcohol abuse) can make it more
or less likely that a child will be at risk for abuse (Aber and
Child abuse is a term used for maltreatment and neglect of children.
Child maltreatment may be formally described as: …all forms of physical
and/or 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
Child neglecton the other hand is generally seen as a different
phenomenon from maltreatment. Child neglect may be defined as: “any
recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caregiver, 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” (Culp, 2011). Neglect is in many ways the more
insidious harm against a child, with long-term effects at least as
damaging as physical abuse (if not more so) but often going unnoticed
The term ‘child abuse and neglect’ refers to the
harm experienced by children or young people under the age of 18 yearsas
a result of the actions, inactions or inability of people with a
parental responsibility for them (Sylvestre and Mérette, 2010). Parental
responsibility in relation to a child means all the duties, powers,
responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have in relation
to children (Greenfield, 2010). The harm experienced by the child or
young person may arise from a significant event or may arise from the
cumulative effect of abuse and neglect. Most parents love their
children, but when stress, tiredness, lack of skills, information and
support combine it can be overwhelming (Drotar, 2012).
It is certain that no child is ever to blame for abuse inflicted on
him or her by an adult. There may be no ‘child’ factors present at all
when a child is abused. However the risk of abuse of a child may be
increased if the child has attributes that make parenting more difficult
or has high needs. Relevant factors might include being a premature
baby, persistently crying, being one of a multiple birth, and/or having
behavioural or mental health problems (Rosenbaum, 2011).
Some children may be vulnerable because of emotional difficulties
they have that both reflect and exacerbate social isolation. The
resulting cognitive and emotional deficits serve as signals of
vulnerability and/or interfere with their self-protective skills outside
the home (Vissing, 2012). Thus, some children are victimised again and
again. Cognitive and emotional deficits resulting from sustained abuse
(including family violence) or neglect at home may increase the risk of a
vicious circle of victimisation outside the home as well. Thus, for
example, experiences such as loss, conflict, deprivation or turmoil
within the home may undermine a child’s ability to protect themselves,
making them a potential target for bullies or sexual predators (Abram,
Low educational attainment of caregivers has been identified as a
risk factor for child maltreatment and neglect (Berger, 2010) and is
also associated with poverty. Hence poverty (especially when compounded
with other risks such as sole parenthood), low educational attainment
and maltreatment can set up a cycle whereby one perpetuates the other
(Jacobson, 2010). As with other risk factors, the strength of the
relationship between low educational attainment and neglect and
maltreatment is unclear, as are the causal pathways. Low educational
attainment can both reflect and contribute to disadvantage including
precarious employment and low income. Lack of education may also mean a
parent has less understanding of issues associated with parenting, or
has limited ability to learn themselves (Twardosz and Lutzker, 2010).
A further widely recognised stressor is sole parenthood (Alessandri,
2011). Two factors appear to contribute to sole parenthood as a stressor
and risk factor for children: the first is the strong link between sole
parent households and poverty, especially reliance on benefit income
(Chaffin, 2011) although, due to the loss of the absent parent’s
wage-earning power, “the majority of single-parent, female-headed
families [are driven] into poverty, regardless of whether the mother works.”
[emphasis added] (Bloom, 2011); the other is that sole parenthood may
be associated with lack of family or community-based support networks.
And a sole parent is doing the work of two people. While support
provided to mothers is significantly associated with them being able to
provide support for their children, there is no evidence that lack of
support and/or wider family dysfunction necessarily leads to
maltreatment (Aber and Cicchetti, 2014).
Child abuse occurs in every country in the world, and despite
considerable efforts and resources, rates of maltreatment and neglect in
developed countries have not markedly diminished, nor are researchers
much closer to being able to assess which children are at risk, and what
programmes effectively change long-term behaviour so as to prevent
maltreatment (Berger, 2010).
Child abuse and neglect have immediate and long-term consequences. In
addition to negatively impacting on the child, child abuse and neglect
impacts on the family, the school community, and even future
generations. The ability to survive and thrive in the face of child
abuse and neglect depends on a variety of factors, including the extent
and type of abuse or neglect, whether it was continual or infrequent,
the age of the child when abuse was initiated, the child’s relationship
to the abuser, and how the abuse or neglect was responded to if
discovered or disclosed. Outcomes are also dependent on the child’s
personality traits, inner strength, and the support the child receives
from those around them (Berger, 2015).
Neglected children are also at considerable risk. These children are
more likely than other children to suffer from a serious physical
injury due to an accident such as falling, drowning, fire, or ingesting
poison. They are also at a greater risk than other children of being
physically and sexually abused from an unrelated caretaker, often times a
significant other or friend of their parent(s) (Berger, 2010).
It is important to note that some children will not develop
behavioral problems, so it cannot be assumed that a lack of behavioral
problems is evidence against child abuse or neglect. When there are
behavioral problems as a result of child abuse and neglect, they will
most likely be related to difficulty following rules, being respectful,
staying in their seats and keeping on-task, temper tantrums, and
difficult peer relationships. As children become older they are more
likely to engage in self (Woodhouse, 2011).
Statement of the Problem
Many child deaths, however, are not routinely investigated and
postmortem examinations are not carried out, which makes it difficult to
establish the precise number of fatalities from child abuse in Ika
South Local Government Area of Delta State. There are problems in
properly recognizing cases of infanticide and measuring their incidence.
Significant levels of misclassification in the cause of death as
reported on death certificates have been found, for example, in Ika
South Local Government Area of Delta State. Deaths attributed to other
causes – for instance, sudden infant death syndrome or accidents have
often been shown on reinvestigation to be homicides.
Despite the apparent widespread misclassification, there is general
agreement that fatalities from child abuse are far more frequent than
official records suggest in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta
State where studies of infant deaths have been undertaken.
Among the fatalities attributed to child abuse, the most common cause
of death is injury to the head, followed by injury to the abdomen.
Intentional suffocation has also been extensively reported as a cause of
death. Injuries inflicted by a caregiver on a child can take many
forms. Serious damage or death in abused children is most often the
consequence of a head injury or injury to the internal organs. Head
trauma as a result of abuse is the most common cause of death in young
children, with children in the first 2 years of life being the most
vulnerable. Because force applied to the body passes through the skin,
patterns of injury to the skin can provide clear signs of abuse. The
skeletal manifestations of abuse include multiple fractures at different
stages of healing, fractures of bones that are very rarely broken under
normal circumstances, and characteristic fractures of the ribs and long
One of the syndromes of child abuse is the ‘‘battered child’’. This
term is generally applied to children showing repeated and devastating
injury to the skin, skeletal system or nervous system. It includes
children with multiple fractures of different ages, head trauma and
severe visceral trauma, with evidence of repeated infliction.
Fortunately, though the cases are tragic, this pattern is rare.
Children may be brought to professional attention because of physical
or behavioural concerns that, on further investigation, turn out to
result from sexual abuse. It is not uncommon for children who have been
sexually abused to exhibit symptoms of infection, genital injury,
abdominal pain, constipation, chronic or recurrent urinary tract
infections or behavioural problems. To be able to detect child sexual
abuse requires a high index of suspicion and familiarity with the
verbal, behavioural and physical indicators of abuse. Many children will
disclose abuse to caregivers or others spontaneously, though there may
also be indirect physical or behavioural signs.
There exist many manifestations of child neglect, including
non-compliance with health care recommendations, failure to seek
appropriate health care, deprivation of food resulting in hunger, and
the failure of a child physically to thrive. Other causes for concern
include the exposure of children to drugs and inadequate protection from
environmental dangers. In addition, abandonment, inadequate
supervision, poor hygiene and being deprived of an education have all
been considered as evidence of neglect.
Data on non-fatal child abuse and neglect come from a variety of
sources, including official statistics, case reports and
population-based surveys. These sources, however, differ as regards
their usefulness in describing the full extent of the problem. Official
statistics often reveal little about the patterns of child abuse. This
is partly because, in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State
there are no legal or social systems with specific responsibility for
recording, let alone responding to, reports of child abuse and neglect.
In addition, there are differing legal and cultural definitions of abuse
and neglect between societies. There is also evidence that only a small
proportion of cases of child maltreatment are reported to authorities,
even where mandatory reporting exists.
Case series have been published in many countries. They are important
for guiding local action on child abuse, and raising awareness and
concern among the public and professionals (Corso and Mercy, 2011). Case
series can reveal similarities between the experiences in different
countries and suggest new hypotheses. However, they are not particularly
helpful in assessing the relative importance of possible risk or
protective factors in different cultural contexts, this study is
therefore set to investigate the factors that are responsible for child
abuse and neglect among parents in Ika South Local Government Area of
Objective of the Study
The main objective is to examine the factors responsible for child
abuse and neglect among parents in Ika South Local Government Area of
Delta State. Therefore, its specific objectives are to:
- Determine the means of child abuse and neglect among parents in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State
- Identify the factors that are responsible for child abuse and neglect among parents Ika South L.G.A of Delta State?
- Determine the consequences of child abuse and neglect in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State
- Examine the factors that protect a child from risk of abuse or neglect in the study area
The following research questions have been generated to guide the study;
- What are the means of child abuse and neglect in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State?
- What are the factors that contribute to child abuse and neglect among parents in Ika South L.G.A of Delta State?
- What are the consequences of child abuse and neglect in Ika South L.G.A of Delta State??
- What factors protect a child from risk of abuse or neglect in the study area?
Significance of the Study
The study investigates the factors responsible for child abuse and
neglect among parents. This study will be significant to parents,
caregivers, nanny, children, teenagers, village heads, government and
the general public on the issues of child abuse and neglect among
parents in our society.
This study will help to identify the factors that contribute to
parental child abuse and neglect of children in Ika South L.G.A of Delta
State and suggest what can be done to prevent child abuse and neglect
in Ika South L.G.A of Delta State. The study will also be significant to
children by identifying factors that can protect them from risk of
abuse or neglect.
The study will show the extent that non-violent and nonabusive
disciplinary methods or practices that parents or caregivers should
employed such as explaining to children why their behaviour was wrong
and telling them to stop, withdrawing privileges and using other
nonviolent methods to change problem behaviour of children.
Furthermore, it is a valuable tool for the researchers, health
administrators, counsellors, health practitioners, educationist,
lecturers, teachers and various associated study on child abuse and
neglect as well as a reference work to others who intend to replicate
this study. It is hoped that the results of this research will go a long
way in helping to alleviate these problems of child abuse and neglect
in Ika South L.G.A of Delta State.
Scope and Delimitation of the Study
This study will examine the factors responsible for child abuse and
neglect such as poverty, when family/home is broken as a result of
divorce, lack of attention from parents to the children, death of their
parents, societal influence, children been accused of witchcraft, low
educational attainment of parents, sole parenthood.
As part of the scope, effort would be made to suggest what can be
done to prevent child abuse and neglect in the area. This study would be
carried out in Ika South L.G.A of Delta State. And it will be limited
to parents in the study area.
Operational Definition of Terms
Abuse: This means the misuse of something. It can also be described as the illegal use of something
Neglect:Failure to provide for a child's basic needs. Neglect maybe physical, medical, educational, or emotional
Child abuse: can be defined as causing or permitting
any harmful or offensive contact on a Childs body; and any
communication or transaction of any kind, which humiliates, shames, or
frightens the child
Physical abuse:Failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision
Medical abuse:Failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment
Educational abuse:failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs
Emotional:inattention to a child's emotional needs,
failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use
alcohol or other drugs.
Sexual abuse:Includes activities by a parent or
caretaker such as fondling a child's genitals, penetration, incest, rape
sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the
production of pornographic materials