PSYCHO-SOCIOLOGICAL DETERMINANTS OF KNOWLEDGE AND AWARENESS OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT AMONG RURAL PARENTS

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background to the Study

The difficulty researchers confront in defining an appropriate’ perspective from which to study the parenting of abused and neglected children stems in part from our currently incomplete understanding of the dynamics of parental functioning. The human potentials realized in the parental role are often reduced to the singular notion that it is the capacity to love which provides the motivation, resilience, and understanding to nurture a child. Yet, loving parents can understand and treat their children in very different ways. Studies of family violence suggest that the emotional investments of parenthood remain highly vulnerable to the stresses and demands of child rearing. There is a clear need in the current literature for closer analysis of the individual capabilities, developed during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, which may importantly influence parental ability to adapt to these demands.

This study will report research analyzing parental conceptions of children and the parent-child relationship, a dimension of social-cognitive functioning referred to as parental awareness. This domain of parent-as-self child-as- other knowledge will be viewed from a structural-developmental perspective. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989. The convention aims children’s entitlement to development, protection, participation and nondiscrimination. It also acknowledges that the realization of these rights for children can only be accomplished through care and assistance of adults. Nigeria ratified the UN Convention on the Child’s Rights in 1991. This implies that thenceforth the country had committed itself to a code of binding obligations towards her children. Among these obligations are the raising of awareness and the involvement of the civil society, including children, in the realization of children’s rights. Following the submission of her initial progress report, the Committee on Children’s Rights recommended, among other things, that the country should domesticate the Convention in order to facilitate its implementation under Nigerian law (UNICEF, 2007; Jacomy and Stevens, 2005). The Nigerian Federal Government enacted the Child’s Rights Act (CRA) in December 2003.

This legislation was adopted to implement principles enshrined in international instruments, including the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the 1990 African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (CRCW), which Nigeria ratified in 1991 and 2000, respectively. Since the Nigerian Constitution mandates that the legislative jurisdiction on matters aecting children belongs exclusively to states, the federal law was insuicient as a means to extend protection to all Nigerian children and, therefore, needed to be adopted by the states. Today many states in Nigeria have adopted the Child’s Rights Act even though some states are yet to adopt the Act. Olumodeji (2008) is of the view that child welfare matters should be issues of urgent concern in any society. This is because according to him, the total import of the needs of the child is predicated on a holistic treatment modality that will aect education, nutrition, housing, health, and the general well-being of the society. In meeting these basic needs, societies have oen tended to regard those of the child as merely secondary. However, this should not be so because the child is the future of any society. Akwara et al (2010) believe that the right of the child is being taken for granted in Nigeria. In their study, they examined the dangers posed by taking the rights of children for granted in the society and efforts being made in Nigeria to protect the child for the overall and sustainable development of the society. Based on the outcome of their study, they concluded that not much is being done even though children are the future of any nation. According to Njoku and Oladiji (2009), the challenges facing children in the 21st century are immense and will need to be faced if we are to achieve the goal of the Child’s Rights Act. Scholars have put forward different views as to why children’s rights are not being protected. In a study Lachman et al (2002) found that one of the challenges facing child protection in Africa is poverty. In other words it will be difficult to protect children’s right if there is poverty, because a poor person will use all that is within his/her disposal for survival. One of the instruments for survival that are usually within the disposal of most people is/are their child/children. Therefore Lachman et al (2002) opined that child labour, child prostitution and other child related ills cannot be wished away as long as poverty exist.

Sossou and Yogtib (2008) in their study outlined various incidents of child sexual abuse, child trafficking, child marriage, and neglect of disabled children in the African continent and concluded that poverty and traditional cultural practices are the main causes of these phenomena. Onyango and Lynch (2006) reports that despite various efforts to improve legislation and the policy framework to protect children, the resources needed to make a real difference are inadequate and unpredictable. According to them, there has, for example, been an increase in the number of cases of sexual abuse reported in Kenya, but funds available to prosecute these cases are not available. Funds made available for child welfare during 2005/2006 in Kenya according to them have been primarily directed by donors towards the prevention of human trafficking and alleviation of poverty. Indeed Onyango and Lynch (2006) believe that children issues are affected on a yearly basis as a result of availability of funds which is equally dependent on the interests of donors. In Nigeria today, although 26 states have ratified, adopted or adapted the Act but the implementation has continued to be a problem. Scholars believe that one of the problems why it is diicult to implement the Act is because people are not aware of the Act nor do they have knowledge of the basic provisions of the Act. Furthermore, the Director General of the Legal Aid Council in Nigeria, Mrs. Joy Bob-Manuel is of the view that the Child’s Rights Act has not received sufficient awareness and acceptance since its domestication because of a general but undue apathy as a result of lack of understanding and full appreciation. According to her, the child as a vulnerable member of the society falls into special needs group and must not be le without proper care and it is this objective that the CRA sets out to achieve (Bamgboye, 2011). They therefore believe that there is need for a public awareness campaign to increase awareness of the child’s rights. According to them, public awareness is the foundation on which understanding and empowerment are built. This is because greater public awareness can lead to: increase political will, implementation and monitoring, increased advocacy, positive proactive response to advocacy by adult members of the society, realization of children’s rights and improved well being (Society for Children and Youth of British Columbia Canada, 2011). Akor (2009) reports that in many parts of the Nigerian society, whether children are on holiday or not, they are subjected to dehumanizing conditions through hawking.

Some parents claim that their children hawk one item or another so as to raise money for their school fees not knowing that the Child Rights Act (Law) prohibits such. Similarly according to Akor (2009) it is an oence under the CRA for parents to deny their children education but some children are kept at home and used as helpers instead of being given opportunity to exploit their environment for future relevance. In the states where children are hardly immunized against killer diseases, do the parents know that it is the rights of the children to be immunized? Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that children have the right to good quality health care, clean water, nutritious food and clean environment (Akor, 2009). Article 27 of the Child Rights Convention says children have right to a standard of living that is good to meet their physical and mental needs while article 28 provides that children have right to education just as primary education should be free. However we know that this is not so in many parts of the country but people are not saying anything about it probably because they are not aware that payment of school fees by children in government owned secondary school is against the law. There have been various suggestions as to how to go about achieving the goals of the Child’s Rights Act. Education has been seen by scholars as the key to achieving these goals.

According to Covell and Rowe (1999) educating people on the rights of the child is important not only for legal reasons but also for its potential in increasing rights-respecting attitudes and behaviours. Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, like all signatories, Nigeria is obligated legally to take measures to increase public awareness of children’s rights as described in the Convention. According to Article 42 of the Convention, state parties are to make the principles and provisions of the Convention widely known, by appropriate and active means, to their citizens. Therefore a key to this means that there is need to make people aware of the CRA through education using the media. Implementing the Child’s Rights Act has not been easy. There has been various reason why this is so.

According to Reading et al (2009) each country and region has tensions between children’s rights and other competing values, all of which have implications for the well-being of children. For example, the African charter on the rights and welfare of the child states in article 31 that “children have a responsibility to work for the cohesion of the family, to respect parents and elders at all times, and to assist them in cases of need”, indicating the survival needs of communities living in environmentally harsh conditions with scarce resources. This cultural relativism according to Reading et al (2009) has relevance for attitudes towards children’s rights. Some countries might still be trying to understand what it means to value a child as an individual no matter what the sex is; others see aspects of physical discipline, such as shaking, to be acceptable. This may be why Akinwumi, (2009) believes that there are various legal impediments in the practical implementation of the Act since it has been legislated in various states of the country as some of the provision do not agree with some cultural values.

PSYCHO-SOCIOLOGICAL DETERMINANTS OF KNOWLEDGE AND AWARENESS OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT AMONG RURAL PARENTS