Highly Vulnerable Children Research Center

Child maltreatment at home: Prevalence among orphans and vulnerable children in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

This report concentrates on the physical and emotional maltreatment of orphans and other vulnerable children by adults living in their households. While OVC programs have begun to prioritize child protection interventions, little is known about the prevalence of child maltreatment among the OVC population in South Africa or what factors place children at higher risk.  The findings presented here are drawn from the baseline assessment of a longitudinal study designed to assess the efficacy of a range of interventions for vulnerable children (study methodology and sample characteristics described in greater detail above). Using definitions of maltreatment suggested by the World Health Organization, children, interviewed in private, were asked to report the frequency during the past 12 months of maltreatment using type-specific examples and a standardized set of response options ranging from “not at all” to “a lot.” Multivariate regression analyses were applied in order to identify underlying factors associated with child maltreatment, including a combined outcome of both physical and emotional maltreatment as well as these outcomes separately.

Findings showed that maltreatment was widespread: nearly half of children in the study experienced physical or emotional maltreatment from adults in their home.  Maltreatment was more common in homes where an adult was chronically ill or where the child’s parent was present. Results also suggested that maltreatment may be partially mediated by caregiver mental health and family functioning.  Potential consequences of maltreatment in children include depression and behavioral problems.

Suggested Citation: Thurman, T.R., & Kidman, R. (2011). Child maltreatment at home: Prevalence among orphans and vulnerable children in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. New Orleans, Louisiana: Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

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