Many children in South Africa live outside of parental care due to orphanhood, parental labour migration, unemployment and unstable formal partnerships. Few studies have examined risk factors for parent-to-child physical aggression (PCPA), a term encompassing varying severities of physically aggressive acts, among children residing outside of parental care. In this context prior custody preparation is uncommon, and alternative caregivers have been found to experience high levels of psychological distress and burden. This study examined these risk factors using secondary analysis of baseline cross-sectional survey data drawn from a bereavement support group evaluation. A logistic regression analysis was applied among a subgroup of 190 female adolescents residing with alternative caregivers, in an effort to inform preventative social work interventions. Half of the adolescents in the subgroup had lost a parent, while a third were double orphans. Eleven percent of adolescents reported experiencing PCPA from their caregiver in the prior four weeks. Increasing levels of caregiver age and burden (a construct reflecting the physical, emotional, and financial hardships associated with providing care) were associated with greater odds of PCPA. Sixty-one percent of caregivers reported prior custody planning with the adolescents’ biological parent(s) and this preparation reduced the odds of physical aggression by 71%. Levels of caregiver depression and the caregiver’s relationship to the adolescent were not associated with PCPA, nor was the duration of care provided. Interventions for families at high risk of parental loss and absence should encourage custody planning and offer support to alternative caregivers in order to mitigate PCPA and its sequelae among adolescents.
Citation: Spyrelis, A., Thurman, T. R., Luckett, B., & Taylor, T. M. (2018). What can social work do to mitigate caregiver-perpetrated physical aggression? A study among caregivers of orphaned and vulnerable female adolescents in South Africa Vulnerable Children & Youth Studies, 13(3), 259-65, DOI: 10.1080/17450128.2018.1446111.