Children who experience violence in their homes are at greater risk of physical and mental health problems, as well as lower academic achievement than their peers once they reach young adulthood, according to a study conducted in South Africa by an international research team, including Dr. Xiangming Fang of the Georgia State University School of Public Health.
Well over half of the children who participated in the study in metropolitan Cape Town (58 percent) reported experiencing some form of violence during childhood at the hands of a parent or other adult living in their home. Physical violence was reported by 34 percent of respondents and emotional violence was reported by 53 percent.
Violence against children “is currently not regarded as a significant human rights or public health issue in South Africa,” the authors wrote. They urged “laws and rules for banning violent punishment of children by parents, teachers or other caregivers” as well as the expansion of training programs to teach effective parenting skills.
The findings are published in the paper “Violence against Children and Human Capital in South Africa,” published in the Journal of Family Violence.
The researchers used survey data of 14-22 year-olds who self-reported whether they had experienced physical or emotional violence in their home while growing up. They then assessed the respondents when they were 21-29 years old.
The researchers analyzed the responses of 4,724 respondents for short-term analysis and of a subset of 2,900 respondents for long-term analysis.
While all forms of violence were found to be harmful in the short and long term, the researchers found that physical violence is even more harmful than emotional violence to the health and educational outcomes of the victims.
The study also found that males were more likely to have long-term physical health problems as a result of childhood violence, while females were more likely to suffer long-term mental health impacts. “Adolescent males who have experienced abuse in childhood are more likely to have poorer numeracy and literacy skills as well as lower long-term education levels,” the authors wrote.
The study’s authors also include Dr. Xiaodong Zheng, with China Agricultural University; Dr. Deborah A. Fry, with the University of Edinburgh; and Ms. Hope Ugboke, MPH, School of Public Health at Georgia State University. Dr. Fang also is affiliated with China Agricultural University.