Causes and consequences of child abuse on the academic performance of secondary school students

Causes and consequences of child abuse on the academic performance of secondary school students in Anambra state


The purpose of this study was to investigateCauses and consequences of child abuse on the academic performance of secondary school students in The study was qualitative in nature and utilised thephenomenological research design. The target population were the abused learners from the AWKA schools.Data were collected from 15 abused learners and their class teachers in four schools. The critical case purposivesampling method was used to select these schools. Thus, only those schools that had abused learners wereselected.Semi-structured interviews focus group discussion and document analysis were used to collect data. Thefindings showed that a majority of the abused learners underperformed as a result of abuse andbecame suspiciousofevery person around them and this had a negative bearing to their academic performance. Some became antisocialand adopted a misdirected rancorous attitude to everyone around them. Thus in the main, the study concludes thatchild abuse affects the academic performance of learners at primary school level. Based on the findings, the studyrecommends that the stakeholders; parents, school administrators and teachers included, should work hand-in-hand inhandling abused learners in order to help them overcome their challenges and improve theiracademic performance andsocial life. In addition to that, the relevant ministries (Police, Child and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Educationand Training) should assist in curbing child abuse at grassroots level.


Child abuse is not a new phenomenon in the history of man. It has been going on right from time immemorial. In Africa/Nigerian society what constitute abuse today has never been regarded as abuse. It has been seen as a way of training the child to become a well behaved, disciplined and self actualized person in society. It is a normal process that children from birth be exposed to a variety of experiences from parents, caregivers and other adults in the society. This is to enable the children acquire the necessary basic norms and skills for effective participation in the society where they belong and for their personal growth and development.

The process of acquiring these skills is sometimes stressful for the children to bear. Some parents and care givers make the condition for acquiring these skills so difficult that the children may find it difficult to cope. The condition in which children are exposed to as they try to acquire the skills to become disciplined and hardworking individuals is where the problems lie. When these conditions become over-stretched it becomes an abuse. For instance, when a child is taught the skills of becoming a farmer, he is taken to the farm, he practice these skills and he is kept in the farm doing that same work from dawn to dusk, without any rest, or having a good meal, this becomes an abuse (Apebende, Umoren, Ukpepi and Ndifon, 2010). Also it may be normal if a child is asked to hawk from morning to evening or before going to school he sales and immediately after school he continues until dusk. This becomes an abuse. Orere-Clifferd (2011) states that children suffer from child abuse because their parents and guardian demand a great deal from them for more than the children would bear. Most children in our public primary schools find themselves in such situation most often.

Child abuse is found in all societies and social class. It is found in the rich or poor home, as well as illiterate or literate homes. The parents abuse their children by frequently using them in their farm work, trade and businesses. This is to help support the income of the home and sometimes to provide for children needs. They are sometime asked by their parents to do some menial jobs such as house helps, cooks, baby sitters, and gardeners to help improve the income of the home (Apebende, Umoren, Ukpepi and Ndifon, 2010).

The rich on the other hand have enough to care for their children but they exploit the children they employ as house helps and cooks. This they do by over working the servants in the daily house chores, while their own children are over pampered.

The servants or house helps work 24 hours a day, without any rest. Others do not have good food, clothes and sometimes no good place to lay their heads. Some are treated like animals, they are beaten, kicked pushed, and sometimes, hot oil, water and even acid is used on them. (Falaye, 2013).

Many more, caregivers called abusive names such as; good for nothing, block head, etc. sometimes some are tired hands and feet and locked in a room, for hours and even days. These actions demoralize the child (Falaye, 2013).

Those who go to school may not be attentive in class because of the work they do at home. The classroom may be the only place where they have a rest from such home activities so they may fall asleep in the class. They may therefore not partake in classroom activities and so may not acquire any learning (Apebende, Umoren, Ukpepi and Ndifon, 2010).

The children of the rich parents may not be allowed to take part in the general activities in the home. They may therefore not know how to cook, wash or care generally for the home. This constitutes an abuse because the child needs to be exposed to such activities because it is certain that the child may need such knowledge in future (Falaye, 2013).

The term child abuse is seen as the process by which children are exposed to maltreatments by parents or guardian (Apebende, Umoren, Ukpepi and Ndifon, 2010). Axmaher (2010) defined child abuse as any mistreatment or neglect of the child that result in non-accidental harm or injury and which cannot be reasonably explained. Obekpa (2011) view child abuse as any condition injurious to physical or emotional health that has been inflicted by parents, guardian or other caretakers. Igbo and Ekoja (2013) defines it as a non-accidental injury inflicted on a child by a parent or guardian.

An abuse according to Isanghedehi (2004) could be seen in three perspectives physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. To Oniyama, Oniyama and Asamaigbo (2004), child abuse manifest in four main categories viz; physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect.

Physical abuse refers to any contact with the body of the child, which may result in an injury. Such contact may involve beating, hitting, kicking, shaking, punching, biting or any act or omission that is not an accident but that which brings some injuries to the child’s body.

Emotional abuse is any act on the part of a parents or caregiver that has the potential for or has actually caused serious emotional cognitive, mental or behavioral disorders. Emotional abuse is evident when a parent or care giver uses abusive words such as blockhead, good for nothing, a mistake, on the child or when the child is locked up in a room, tired both hands and feet, or not allowed to make friends. Mba (2013) maintained that emotional abuse implies constantly blaming the child, belittling and or berating the child, being unconcerned about the child’s welfare and overtly rejection of the child by parents or caretakers or caregivers.

Sexual abuse occurs when a parent or care giver engages in inappropriate sexual behaviours with the child. This may take the form of actual sexual intercourse, kissing, or foundling or genitals or either the abuser or the abused. According to Uzoezie (2004) sexual abuse occurs when an adult or older person uses his or her power over a child. The abuse may trick, bribe, threaten and if possible force a child to take part in sexual activity.

Neglect according to Okpara (2001) include inadequate feeding, shelter and lack of supervision, inadequate body care, poor clothing, poor and denial of medicinal attention and inadequate provision of educational materials and supervision. Other aspects of neglect may include letting the child live in a filthy environment and non provision of proper nourishment.

Other aspects of child abuse may include child exploitation, slavery, trafficking and abandonment. The different forms of abuse affect the child in all spheres of life including academic attainment.

Conversely, a child is said to be abused when the parents, care givers or any human action leads to physical, emotional and sexual abuse of the child. It also involves failure of the parents to provide the necessary love and care for the child.

It has been observed of late that the academic performance of children in public primary schools in the State, particularly, in Kwande Local government Area is becoming low. One wonders if such low academic performance is as a result of the maltreatment children are exposed to. The study therefore seeks to find out if child abuse has any effect on the academic performance of primary school pupils. Specially, the big question is; does physical, emotional and sexual abuse affects the academic performance of primary school pupils?

The major objective of the study is to determine the effect of child abuse on the academic performance of primary school pupils in Kwande Local Government of Benue State, specifically, the academic performance of pupils who are physically, emotionally and sexually abused.

Statement of the Problem

At the heart of every educational system lays the desire for the students, teachers and the institutions to achieve their educational goals; however, the extent to which this desire is achieved in the study period of a student varies based on individual differences. Individual differences in academic performance have been linked to differences in intelligence and personality. Students with higher mental ability as demonstrated by IQ tests and those who are higher in conscientiousness (linked to effort and achievement motivation) tend to perform highly in academic settings. A recent meta-analysis suggested that mental curiosity (as measured by typical intellectual engagement) has an important influence on academic performance in addition to intelligence and conscientiousness. Despite high mental abilities, conscientiousness and intellectual engagement demonstrated by most children it has been observed of late that the academic performance of children in public primary schools in the State, particularly, in Kwande Local Government Area is becoming low. It has also been observed that in this recent times issues of child abuse and neglect is on the rise in the local government due to economic depression caused by the global economic backdrop and incessant social/civil unrests. One wonders if such low academic performance is as a result of the abuse/maltreatment children are exposed to.

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