The Link Between Poverty and Child Abuse

Several studies have established the link between poverty and child abuse; however there are many poor families in which child abuse does not take place. Such poor families love their children and see them as their assets in life. The following are the reasons why the incidence of physical abuse is high in poor families:

1. Unmet needs of poor parents. These unmet needs can lead to frustration that could result in child physical abuse at the slightest provocation.

2. Unmet needs in a child. A child that is hungry or ill that needs to be taken to a doctor but is denied access can cry persistently and provoke the wrath of the parent.

3. Maternal depression. Incidence of maternal depression is higher in poor women than in the general population. Because access to mental health care is difficult for this class of persons, child care would be a burden to a depressed woman who might resort to violence in correcting an erring child. Depression is associated with poor social skills and makes the mother unable to give positive and responsive parenting.

4. Poor parenting strategies. Poverty and the associated social exclusion means poor parents would not have access to resources that will make them bring up their children through teaching instead of resorting to extreme violence in effecting behavioral change in their children.

5. Poor nutrition. First three years of life are critical in the development of the brain. During this time, the number of neurons in the brain increase dramatically and poor nutrition hinders this development. Malnourished children respond poorly to instructions and this can provoke the parent.

6. Poor access to care. Mothers who are sick and cannot access care will be irritable in relating with their children. Sick children who drain the resources of the family would be seen as unnecessary burden to the family and could be at the receiving end of the anger of parents.

7. Large family size. A large family size having two children under the age of two will be a huge drain on the patience and resources of the family. In many cultures, poor people give birth to many children because of high infant mortality rate and uncertainty about which child will survive. People also believe, one of their children might be a success who will deliver them from the grips of poverty.

8. Social exclusion and poor social network. Poor persons living in poor neighborhoods might not have access to resources that will enable them cope better with parenting.

9. Low cognitive ability of children. This could arise from poor nutrition or a home environment that is non-stimulatory educationally. A child that performs poorly at school may be accused of playing at school and punished severely.

10. Increase conflict among couples. Fighting couples live under stress and anger can be transferred to hapless children.

11. Housing in violent neighborhood. Witnessing violent acts all the time has a way of desensitizing a person in to accepting violence as a way of life.

12. Poor Housing. Poor housing produces stress that makes family members edgy and ready to explode at the slightest provocation.

Dr Francis Edo Olotu is the Medical Director of Christ Hospital, Ondo. He is also a family counselor who regularly counsels married persons and administers pre-marriage counseling to couples about to marry in his home church of St John Bosco Catholic Church Ondo. He is a frequently featured speaker in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. He is married to Catherine and their marriage is blessed with four children in the age bracket of twelve to twenty two. Dr Olotu is the author of the following books: The Amazing Power in Fatherhood; Releasing the Power in Fatherhood as well as Your Guide to Cancer Prevention.