Two weeks ago, the newspapers and social media were agog, with the story of a brutal husband and wife, who brutalized their 10 – year – old maid. Reason – she slept off and the baby she was carrying fell off her hand. The maid was the husband’s niece. As at the time of writing this, husband and wife have been detained in the Nigerian Correctional Centre Enugu.
Child Abuse is the maltreatment, physical or mental injury; or sexual abuse of a child. Child neglect is the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter or love to a child.
More than two million children are abused or neglected every year in Nigeria. About 20% of those who are physically abused (like the 10-year-old in question) are permanently injured and about 5,000 die each year.
Most of these children are under 10 years old, and almost 50% are younger than 6 years. An estimated 250, 000 children are sexually abused or molested every year, but only a tiny fraction is reported.
An adult who sexually abuses or molests a child often, is related to the child, usually a close family member. Sexual contact between a child and a close blood relative is incest.
About 25% of the cases of abuse and neglect occur in children under the age of 5. Boys and girls are affected equally, although majority of girls suffer sexual abuse. Child neglect is probably 10 – 15 times more common than abuse, although abuse and neglect often occur together. Neglect is 12 times more common in children living in poverty.
Causes of child abuse and neglect.
Abuse may occur when parents or guardians can’t control their impulses. Four(4) factors make such loss of control more likely.
The parent may have psychiatric problems, such as personality disorder or low self esteem, or may abuse drugs or alcohol.
The child may be different from others (irritable, demanding, hyperactive or handicapped).
Emotional support from the family, neighbors or friends may be inadequate.
A crisis may occur, such as loss of money or a job.
Neglect often occurs in families that have many problems. Drug or alcohol abuse or a chronic medical condition may cause, financial hardships, leading to the inadequate feeding, care and attention of a child.
Desertion by one parent may result in neglect by the other.
Symptoms & Diagnosis of Child Abuse & Neglect.
Abuse may lead to recognizable behavioral changes in both the child and the abuser. For instance, a parent may seem unconcerned, even when a child has obviously been injured.
The parent may be reluctant, to take the child to a doctor, or describe to the doctor or friends how the injury occurred and the description may change each time the story is told.
The injury may be unusual for the age of the child.
A child who is repeatedly physically abused may show signs of new and old injuries.