Research - The Problem of Child Abuse: Attitudes and Experiences in Seven Countries of Central and Eastern Europe

The studies were conducted in 2005/2006 in seven Eastern European countries: Bulgaria,
Lithuania, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, and Ukraine.
Report was prepared by Monika Sajkowska, PhD (Nobody`s Children Foundation, Warsaw University, Institute of Applied Social Science)

The main objective of two sets of the research was to assess public attitudes and those held by professionals working with children, toward the problem of child abuse, as well as professionals' experience in undertaking interventions in such cases and their evaluation of the effectiveness of the child protection system in their countries.

Two kinds of research were conducted:
I. In each of the seven countries a nationwide, representative sample of adult citizens provided answers to two questions: (1) a question concerning their attitudes toward parental use of corporal punishment of children, and (2) a question concerning their perceptions of the scale of such behaviours among parents. The respondents provided answers to these two questions within Omnibus studies conducted in the participating countries by various research agencies.

II. The other group of studies concerned the full range of the research questions. In each of the participating countries the respondents were teachers working at capital-city primary schools. In each capital city ten schools were selected from different districts, using the layered random sampling method. The respondents were teachers working at each of the selected schools. They filled self-administered questionnaires individually and then returned the set of completed questionnaires from their school to the programme coordinator.
Developed by Monika Sajkowska, the questionnaire consisted of 87 items which had been previously used in Polish research programmes concerning child abuse (Sajkowska, Siemaszko, 1998; Fluderska, Sajkowska, 2001).

Both studies sought answers to the following research questions:
• How do the respondents estimate the scale of a wide range of abusive behaviours
towards children in the countries participating in the project?
• How do they evaluate the dynamics of various aspects of child abuse?
• What is the level of social acceptance of controlling parents' behaviours toward their
children by state and other people?
• What are the respondents' self-reported attitudes toward parental use of corporal
punishment of children?
• How do they evaluate various professional groups' sensitivity and competence in the
area of child protection?

1. Subjective evaluations of the prevalence of corporal punishment of children in the countries included in the study show that both in the general adult samples and among primary school teachers working in capital cities the lowest percentage of children experiencing such forms of punishment is reported by Bulgarian participants, and the highest - by respondents from Lithuania, Ukraine, and Macedonia, and by teachers in Macedonia and Poland. At the same time, the low variation of assessments of the prevalence of corporal punishment across all seven countries is worth emphasizing.
2. Most teachers participating in the study believe that the prevalence of corporal punishment in their countries is changing. However, their opinions concerning the direction of these changes are polarized.
3. The highest proportion of strong opponents of beating children has been found in Bulgaria, while the lowest proportions of respondents strongly opposing corporal punishment have been found in the Polish and Moldovan samples.
4. A vast majority of teachers in all seven countries agree that parents' behaviours toward children should be regulated by law. Moreover, a high proportion of respondents supports a legal ban on beating children (which has been so far imposed in three of the countries: Latvia, Bulgaria, and Ukraine). Interestingly, the lowest level of support for legal regulation of parents' behaviours - including the use of corporal punishment - has been expressed by respondents from Latvia, where beating children has been legally banned for the longest time (since 1998).
5. Teachers in all seven countries are nearly unanimous that third parties should intervene when a child is beaten with a belt. Acceptance of interfering in the way parents treat their children is more than 50% lower when the punishment applied is spanking. Interfering in situations of beating is most likely to be supported by teachers from Poland (93%) and Bulgaria (91%).
6. Most teachers perceive beating as humiliating to the child and reflecting the parents' educational failure. This opinion is most likely to be shared by Bulgarian and Ukrainian teachers, and least likely - by teachers from Latvia (!).
7. General disapproval of using corporal punishment of children and negative perceptions of its effects do not result in respondents' readiness to eliminate such forms of punishment. Surprisingly, many teachers participating in the study report that they would be prone to punish a child with beating, especially for behaviours implying moral corruption, such as drinking alcohol, theft or playing truant. According to a significant proportion of the respondents such punishment would be also justified if a child was disobedient or disrespectful toward his/her parents.
8. The perceived prevalence of emotional abuse of children by their parents is similar across the seven countries. In the respondents' opinions humiliating verbal abuse is experienced, on average, by half of the children living in their countries and by about one third of the students attending their schools. The prevalence of motional neglect is perceived at a similar level.
9. Physical neglect, i.e., insufficient care of the child's hygiene, clothing or nutrition, as well as leaving the child unattended, is thought to be experienced by one third of the national child populations, on average. The respondents' perceptions are similar across all seven countries.
10. Among various forms of child abuse, sexual abuse is least likely to be noticed by the respondents. According to teachers participating in the study, this problem is most prevalent in Poland and Moldavia (17% of children, on average), and least prevalent in
Bulgaria (8%).
11. The highest proportion of the respondents perceive an undesirable growth trend in the prevalence of leaving children unattended. On average, 61% of the respondents believe that children in their country are more and more likely to be left without care.
12. In their work, teachers participating in the study were least likely to encounter cases of child sexual abuse (on average, 4.5% of the respondents) and most likely to have contact with cases of neglect and emotional abuse (about 32% of the respondents).
13. Only half of the respondents assessed the range of services available to abused children as sufficient. Judgments concerning this issue were quite diversified - available services were perceived as sufficient by 64% of teachers in Latvia, and only 27% in Poland. Much criticism was also expressed about iterdisciplinary cooperation
in the process of helping abused children. Most respondents in each of the seven countries - and nearly three fourths in Moldova, Macedonia, and Poland - believe that child protection institutions rarely cooperate with each other.
14. The police and health care professionals (doctors in local clinics) are the two most heavily criticized professional groups. On average, only 11% of the respondents believe that the police provide help in cases of child maltreatment in families. Only
16% of the participants think that in such situations children may count on health care professionals' help.
15. A significant proportion of the respondents can see dysfunctions in procedures of legal interventions undertaken in response to child abuse. On average, one fifth of the participants believe that the police often fail to intervene, 16% think that such cases are likely to be erroneously discontinued by the prosecution, and one fourth perceives the conditions of interviewing children during legal procedures as inappropriate. More than half of the general sample criticize lengthy investigations and court proceedings in cases of crimes against children.
16. The respondents' opinions on how to deal with child sexual abusers suggest strong condemnation for any form of adults' sexual behaviour involving children. In each of the seven countries the strategy of punishment is supported by a vast majority of respondents (from 69% in Latvia to 86% in Poland). The opinion that child sexual abusers should be punished is often accompanies by the belief that they need to be provided with a treatment and deprived of their parental rights.

From the following list you can download:

- national reports from the teachers' study

- national reports from research on nationwide, representative sample of adult citizens who provided answers to two questions mentioned above

- comparative report from the studies

Research Report, Bulgaria.pdf215.54 KB
Research Report, Latvia.pdf206.12 KB
Research Report, Lithuania.pdf215.1 KB
Research Report, Macedonia.pdf672.92 KB
Research Report, Moldova.pdf649.4 KB
Research Report, Poland.pdf251.02 KB
Research Report, Ukraine.pdf205.39 KB
Bulgaria, 2 Questions.pdf71.85 KB
Latvia, 2 Questions.pdf170.64 KB
Lithuania, 2 Questions.pdf126.18 KB
Macedonia, 2 Questions.pdf7.67 KB
Moldova, 2 Questions.pdf65.15 KB
Poland, 2 Questions.pdf178.37 KB
Ukraine, 2 Questions.pdf90.52 KB
comparative report.pdf563.5 KB
Latvia, 2 Questions, Latvian language version.pdf266.18 KB

Submitted by admin on Tue, 2007-01-02 12:43.