1.1   Background to the Study

The term “child abuse” is becoming alarming in our contemporary society. Its magnitude and frequency of occurrence are such that is has attracted global attention. The protection of children from all kinds of abuse has been a major crusade in our society (Henry, 1996). Parents who abuse children from all ethnic, religious, geographic, socio-economic, and educational groups, moat child abuse parents were themselves abuse as children. They regard their children as someone who should satisfy his/her parents’ psychological needs. When the child cannot do this, as he/she usually cannot, the parents may become violently angry. Most abusers are simply lonely, unloved, immature, depressed and angry persons. The way children are abuse these days is not the way it was in the olden days. For example, many parents do undress in the full glare of their children, thereby abusing them psychologically. In those days, parents hardly undress in the presence of their children. And this has curtailed the rate of child abuse in those days. These days, parents do not see their undressing before their children as anything bad. Rather, they think that they are teaching the child on how to take care of their bodies and dresses. Child abuse is the physical or emotional harm to children caused by parents, guardians or other adult members of the society, Achilles (1994).

In the United States for example, physical abuse per a million people and reported each year. An approximately equal number of cases of serious neglect are reported. One third of all types of child abuse affect children under 1 year of age, one third from ages 1 to 3 and one third over 3 years. Every country of the world has laws requiring physicians and other professionals to report suspected child abuse. Laymen and also strongly encouraged to report cases of child abuse or neglect in order for these children to be identified and helped (United Nations, 2000). The rate of which adolescents are turning to become touts and hooligans in the society is one of the reasons this researcher is embarking on this study. This is because many students from good homes seem to turn out to be socially maladjusted. Perhaps due to the problem of parental abuse or neglect. The numbers of homeless, street trading, touts, area boys and girls and prostitution among our youths in the Nigerian society, especially in Surulere Local Government Area of Lagos State cannot but be a great source of concern. Oloko (1996) is of the opinion that the magnitude of child abuse or neglect and its frequency of occurrence are such that it has attracted global attention for example, she claims that the protection of children from all forms of abuse has been a major crusade in our society and beyond. According to her, symposia were organized in Lagos and other places to mark the day of the African child in which people participated. Representative from United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) were not left out. In addition, other organisation such as the Organisation for African United (OAU) the International Labour Organisation (ILO) etc frowned at this phenomenon in the society. Children are abused in many ways by either parents or the adult members of the society. The abuse ranges from sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse to total neglect which in any case leads to their negative social adjustment in the society (Russel, 1986). Child sexual abuse and neglect are widely regarded as a cause of mental health problems in adult life. The possible influence of child sexual abuse on adult social and economic functioning has not received the attention it perhaps deserves, as well as documented difficulties that sexually abused children experience in the school situation with academic performance and behaviour (Jong, Balt and Raymond, 1987; Chen and Mannerino (1988) and Friederch (1989).

Banjor (1997) states that, the fact that the Nigerian children are subjected to various forms of abuse and neglect by individuals and the society does not means that it is legal and fashionable to treat children in such manner. He therefore, supports the opinion of the Nigerian constitution which stipulates in chapter 11, section 18 that children of young persons and the aged in our society or communities are to be protected against moral or material neglect. Becker, (1990) states that in the United States of America, various laws are made in order to protect the interest of children. Their provision is further buttressed by the fact that the children must not be subjected to any kind of abuse or neglect. Moreso, as they symbolize the future growth of the society in which they live. Oloko (1996) and Bamidele (1999) state that children are commonly seen in Lagos hawking while their parents/guardians comfortably sit at home waiting for the proceeds. Apart from not being in school. Female children are given out in early marriages at a very tender age. Also, the female genital mutilation abounds in almost all parts of the country today, it is very pathetic to observed that despite media reports regarding its hazards some parents and guardians still subject their children or wards to this dangerous practice. It is impossible to eradicate child abuse or neglect when in actual fact, parents/guardians, actively encourage it. For example, in some communities, parents actually give out their children or wards as house helps only to come at the end of the month for income (Adeoye, 2000 and Kendale, 2000). This has caused untold hardship on these children who are given to serve people as househelps. In many cases, children who serve as househelps do not go to school. Even, when they go to school their school fees are not paid promptly and their necessary schools materials such as school uniforms, textbooks, exercise books etc are not provided. This condition of being a househelp leads a child to absenteeism truancy and dropping out of school syndrome.

These in any case, lead to poor academic performance, poor and social personal adjustment and poor socio-economic status of the child when he/she becomes an adult member of the society. In many cases, child abuse has led to prostitution and sexual harassment which in turn led to unwanted pregnancies, aborting, death or early motherhood without education. For example a girl child who hawks wares on the street may end up being a prostitute and consequently contacting sexually transmitted disease such as the deadly HIV/AIDS and this may lead to premature death and cutting short of her opportunity and career in life (Nwagbo, 1998). Child abuse may be limited to the following factors: Lack of parental care, poverty, loss of parents or death of breadwinner(s) in the home, parental separation of marital divorce. Some of these factors can lead to a child being left in the hands of care-giver such as step-parents guardians etc who now mishandle the affairs of the child in the most unfortunate way or manner which contributes abuse or care-givers to the child’s social adjustment cannot be over emphasized. Due to the abuse meted on the child by those who are supposed to take care of him/her, make the child to be socially maladjusted in the immediate community or society where he/she funds him/her self. This leads to social deviations and delinquencies which are anti-social behaviours or negative norms the society abhorres and avoids.

1.2     Statement of the Problem

The increase in the incidence of child abuse in the society has been of great concern to both the government and educationsists. The issues of child abuse has been persistent in many parts of the country. The society or environment where a child is brought up is a determinant of the level of child abuse he/she is subjected to. Due to this, the society is no longer free. Child abuse has eaten the minds of many Nigerians especially parents, guardians and other care givers in the country. The problems of child abuse include street begging for parents upkeep, hawking on the streets by kids where they can easily be exposed to dangers of being knocked down by speeding vehicles. Many children who are neglected by their parents are atimes hooligans, robbers etc while the female ones go into prostitution and other related cases, such as rape, sexual harassment, drug abuse and addiction which is a deviant behaviours in the society. Other negative influence are personality problems, high rate of crimes in our society, corruption, absenteeism, truancy and dropping out of school which is prevalent among the abused and the neglected children etc. It is against this background that this study is embarked upon in order to examine the effects of child abuse on the personal social adjustment of the pupils in the primary school level and to prefer possible solution to this problem.

1.3     Purpose of the Study

This study attempts to examine the influence of child abuse on the social adjustments of pupils in Surulere Local Government Area of Lagos State. Specific objectives include:

1.      To evaluate relevant childhood developmental stages.

2.      To identify the causes of child abuse in Lagos state.

3.      To categorize the signs and symptoms of child abuse.

4.      To analyse the consequences of child abuse in Lagos state.

5.      To evaluate the influence of child abuse on the social adjustment of a child.

1.4    Research Questions

The following research questions will guide the conduct of this study.

i.  What are the relevant developmental stages of a child?

ii.  What are the causes of child abuse?

iii.  What signs and symptoms signify child abuse?

iv.  What are the consequences of child abuse in Nigerian society?

v.  To what extent have child abuse influenced the social adjustment of a child?

1.5    Research Hypotheses

The following research hypotheses will guide the conduct of this study:

Hypothesis I

Ho: There is no significant consequence of child abuse in Nigerian society.

Hi: There is a significant consequence of child abuse in Nigerian society.

Hypothesis II

Ho: Child abuse does not influence the social adjustment of a child.

Hi: Child abuse influences the social adjustment of a child.

1.6    Significance of the Study

The importance of this research work will be that it would provide more knowledge to the masses especially, the parents or guardians on the implications of any form of child abuse and neglect on adolescents. It will also enlighten people on the different forms of abuse of children and some suggested solutions to the problems of child abuse in our society.

1.7     Scope of the Study

The study will cover the influence of child abuse on the personal social adjustment of students in secondary schools in Surulere Local Government Area of Lagos State.

1.8     Limitation of the Study

The study will be limited to Surulere Local Government environs. Fund, time and sourcing of good materials would be hindrance to the timely completion of this project work.

1.9     Definition of Terms

The following terms were operational defined:

Child: A child is a person who is easily controlled due to his frail personality and dictated for by the adult members of the society.

Child Abuse: Child abuse is used in terms of child labour beyond the age of the child. For example, long hours of labour, sending the child to do some paid jobs in order to assist the family income when the child is supposed to go the school etc.

Child Neglect: Child neglect means a situation whereby the child is not given proper care of attention as being deprived of the basic comforts of life.