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The purpose of the study was to examine and document child abuse and behavioural problem of children in senior secondary school, Lagos of Nigeria. The study objectives were to examine the types of child abuse, to identify the causes of child abuse and to examine the consequences of child abuse on children in senior secondary school. The study adopted a descriptive research design that was both quantitative and qualitative. The data was analysed based on frequency and percentages in tables, pie charts and bar graphs. The study results indicated that majority of respondents experienced neglect from their parents as a major form of child abuse, followed by sexual abuse, physical abuse, and finally emotional abuses. It was established that the major cause of child abuse in Among secondary school children in Lagos was poverty among the people, parents taking alcohol, unemployed parents, parents who have history of abuse are highly related to child abuse and finally child abuse had negative consequences on child development. The study concludes that there are different types of child abuse existing in senior secondary school, implying the prevalence of child abuse. The study concludes that majorly poverty, drug abuse, history of abuse and lack of commitment in proper nurturing of the children caused child abuse and finally child abuse had a negative effect on children, implying that child abuse has a negative effect on child development. The study recommends that child abuse in form of neglect, emotional, physical abuses exist, there is need for counseling the parents on the proper ways of handling the children in order to reduce their ways of harming the children, the alternative ways of punishments can therefore substitute the corporal punishments of abuse, this will lead to the abolition of the forms of child abuse that are disastrous to the children. On the second objective, there is further need for the provision of counseling and guidance to the parents to reduce taking of drugs as means of improving their lively hood and reduce their bearing on the children. The study finally study recommends for a policy intervention into handling the culprits of child abuse and ensures that these don’t report the abuses on children. There is need for arraigning the child abusers to the legal systems as means of improving the children state of life as many would be child abusers will be scared in doing the same.


1.0 Introduction

This chapter covers the background of the study, statement of the problem, purpose of the study, objectives of the study, research questions, scope of the study, and significance of the study, and the operational definitions of terms and concepts as applied to suit the context of the study.

1.1. Background of the Study

The background of this study is categorized into four sections including the historical perspective, the theoretical perspective, and the conceptual and contextual perspective. Child abuse is an enormous issue that affects children from every social class, race and gender. Adolescents and young children, in particular, may experience abuses in form of rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, defilement, and in worst cases female genital mutilation (Corwin, 1988, p.251). Children have always been subject of abuse by their parents and other adults. For thousands of years many policies and legislations have failed to protect children and childhood. Children being beaten and abandoned by their parents has been a norm that was accepted by society, in part because people believed and accepted the view that children were essentially the property of their parents. Under English common law, for example, children were considered their father’s property until the eighteenth century. American colonists in the seventeenth and eighteenth century continued this tradition, recognizing children as property, but also as asset that could be employed in the performance of valuable farm labor.

Child abuse is a serious matter and should never be taken lightly. Although in early years child abuse was never talked about and viewed as a family matter. No one bothered to take action against the matter, but that changed in 1639, which was the year the first recorded trial for child abuse took place in Salem, Massachusetts. Child abuse became a powerful social issue in 1980s, generating intense media workloads for child abuse agencies.


Today it is a topic well known to everyone around the world. The problem gained international awareness when national laws were created in Great Britain in1884 to protect children from cruel treatment, and when the national society for the Prevention of Cruelty to children originated that same year (Child Abuse History Overview, 2021). In 1848 Pennsylvania made it illegal for children twelve years of age or younger to work in factories. In 1962 an article appearing in the Journal of the American medical association described the symptoms of child abuse and deemed it medically diagnosable. Ten years later, most states had passed mandatory reporting laws, requiring certain categories of professionals, to report suspected child abuse to police and other authorities. At this point the physical abuse neglect of children was recognized, but it was until the 1970s that child sexual abuse was recognized.

The U.S early 1870 was the first that captured public attention to child abuse. Etta Wheeler, a church worker who was asked to visit a foster family, found a nine year old foster child, Mary Ellen, severely malnourished, beaten, scarred, and shackled to a bed. The child told her that she was beaten and whipped on a daily basis. The case generated enough outrage and publicity about child abuse that in 1874 citizens formed the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. On July 1, 1899 the first juvenile court system was established in Chicago, Illinois. In 1904 The National Child Labor Committee was formed to bring attention to the exploitation of children (Markel et al., 2009).

In Africa and other developing countries, child abuse has been in existence for a long time and remains a harsh reality for thousands of children. The region’s culture, traditions, and beliefs usually promote child abuse since acts of physical abuse can be seen as disciplining a child according to (Abolfotouh et al., 2009, p.5). The awareness of this social problem came under the public radar in the early 1980s, when a special seminar supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) was organized specially for members from developing countries in Montreal, Canada, in 1986.

In 2007 the Global Fund for Children asserts that West African children are more likely to be beaten or abused ,raped, trafficked, and are less likely to go to school, receive proper health care or be properly nourished compared with fifteen years ago, despite binding legislations meant to improve children’s situation (Global Fund ,2007). The World Health (2002) report, documented that 53,000 children are murdered each year and about 40 million children below the age of fifteen years suffer from abuse and neglect. It has lifelong squeal, including, depression, anxiety disorders, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, aggression and violence toward others, and risky sexual behaviours and post-traumatic stress disorders are in major risk factor for psychiatric disorders and suicide. Children continue to be exposed to diverse forms of violence, often promoted by cultural beliefs and practices. Violence against children occurs on a large scale and in virtually all settings and the phenomenon continues to deprive children of their rights. There is documented evidence that the girl child is the most affected and holds a disadvantaged position (Kyamureku, 1997, p.5).

In Nigeria, like many other developing societies, child sexual abuse is increasing alarmingly. According to the African Network for Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) annual crime and traffic safety report for 2012, there were 7,690 cases of rape recorded in 2011. The Children, HIV and Aids avert 2021 report indicates that in 2015, 54% of children exposed to HIV were tested within the recommended two months hence placing the country among the 21 highest-burden countries. The report further reveals that 2016, the number of children becoming newly infected with HIV remained unacceptably high up to 160,000, 24% of pregnant women living with HIV did not have access to ARVs to prevent transmission to their infants.

1.2. Statement of the Problem

Child abuse is ongoing problem according to the statistics reveal the prevalence of child abuse in rural camps in Nigeria. According to the 2007 World Vision report, children living in internally displaced persons camps (IDPC) in northern Nigeria were victims of sexual abuse commonly perpetrated by, people known to the victim personally, people with wealth or those with; power, authority and control over the child. However 34 percent victims were having compelled premature sex in exchange for basic needs. In 2010, the Nigerian Annual Crime and Traffic/Road Safety Report, (2010) highlighted that; Child abuse was an ongoing problem for children, of which sexual abuse was the most common form. The UNICEF 2015 report stipulated that every day 26 girls were defiled in Pabbo IDP camp northern Nigeria. Which, increased rape cases from 7,360 reported cases in 2009 to 9,588 in 2013.  Save the children report, (2017) reported that Many of the rural children came to Nigeria on their own, having been separated from or lost their parents during flight. These children get lured into sexual acts, early marriages, child labour to meet survival needs, as well as face exposure to sexual and physical abuse while under the care of other adults, sexually transmitted diseases, increased child pregnancies, high school dropout rates. HIV infection rate begins to rise in the age group 15-19 particularly among girls (UNAIDS, 2014).

1.3. Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study was to examine and document child abuse and behavioural problems of children in senior secondary school, Lagos of Nigeria.

1.4. Objectives of the Study

  • To examine the types of child abuse in senior secondary school.
  • To identify the causes of child abuse in senior secondary school.
  • To examine the consequences of child abuse on behaviour of children in senior secondary school.

1.5. Research Questions

  • What are the types of child abuse in senior secondary school?
  • What are the causes of child abuse in senior secondary school?
  • What are the consequences of child abuse on behaviour of children in senior secondary school?

Research hypothesis

Specially, the following hypotheses were tested.

  1. There is no significant relationship between child abuse and children‘s attention span in the class.
  2. There is no significant relationship between child‘s active involvement in parent‘s business and his/her attitude to classwork.


1.6. Scope of the Study

The study was directly focused on victims of child abuse, as well as their parents/ guardians and community leaders and organizations deal in cases of child abuse and behavioural problems of children in Rural areas in Lagos of Nigeria. It was to examine factors facilitating the abuse of children and how these abuses affect the behaviour of children in the settlement.

1.7. Significance of the Study


1.8. Operational definition of key terms

Child: Child in this study means a person under the age of eighteen years, who is or is alleged to be a victim of abuse.

Maltreatment: Constitutes all forms of child abuse including physical abuse, emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligent treatment and exploitation of children, 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.

Punishment: Is the imposition of an undesirable or unpleasant outcome upon a group or individual, meted out by an authority—in contexts ranging from child discipline to criminal law— as a response and deterrent to a particular action or behaviour that is deemed undesirable or unacceptable.

Victim: A victim of a crime of physical abuse, physiological abuse, sexual abuse or exploitation.

Or a witness to a crime committed against another person.

Physical development: Is the process that starts in human infancy and continues into late adolescence concentrating on gross and fine motor skills as well as puberty. Physical development involves developing control over the body, particularly muscles and physical coordination. The peak of physical development happens in childhood and is therefore a crucial time for neurological brain development and body coordination to encourage specific activities such as grasping, writing, crawling, and walking.

Psychological development: Refers to the development of human beings’ cognitive, emotional, intellectual, and social capabilities and functioning over the course of the life span, from infancy through old age.

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