Effect of training on child neglect and abuse for teachers and its effect on awareness | BMC Public Health

Child neglect and abuse is a global problem. Neglect and abuse can cause physical, mental, sexual and social harm to the child and endanger their health and safety [1, 2]. Child abuse can be classified as the physical, emotional, psychological or sexual abuse of children or as child neglect [3].

Physical abuse is defined as the intentional use of physical force against a child that harms the health, development or dignity of the child. [3]. Emotional or psychological abuse involves both isolated incidents and a pattern of failure over time on the part of a parent or caregiver to provide a supportive and developmentally appropriate environment [3]. These incidents are usually repeated and convey to the child that he is worthless, unloved, unwanted or only useful in terms of meeting the needs of others, and they are exemplified by acts of hostility, terror, rejection, isolation, corruption and denial of emotional reactivity. [4]. Sexual abuse is defined as the involvement of a child in sexual activity by any adult or child in a position of power over the victim. [3, 5]. Neglect includes a pattern of failure over time on the part of a parent or other family member to provide for the child’s development and well-being in terms of health, education, emotional development, nutrition, housing and safe living conditions [3, 6].

Specifically, child abuse has become a serious and growing problem worldwide. According to data released by UNICEF, 42.0% of students in Australia said they had experienced child abuse [7]. In Poland, 80.0% of adults report having been victims of physical violence in childhood [8].

In Turkey, the main factors leading to an increase in the number of children exposed to neglect and abuse are described as follows: the large number of families with low socio-economic status, a high population growth rate, the fact that individuals use violence as a form of discipline and increasing levels and rates of unemployment and immigration [9]. In addition, a study conducted in Turkey demonstrated that child abuse occurs mainly within the home, school or on the street and that the abusers are mainly fathers, mothers, teachers, friends and neighbors. [10]. When children were asked to identify the type of abuse they had witnessed, 56.0% said they had witnessed physical abuse, 49.0% said they had witnessed emotional abuse, and 10.0% said they had witnessed sexual violence. however, these numbers changed when asked what type of abuse they had experienced, as 25.0% reported experiencing neglect, 51.0% reported experiencing emotional abuse, and 3% reported have suffered sexual violence. [10].

Generally, child neglect and abuse can lead to various injuries to the child or even death; additionally, children who move on with their lives after an incident of abuse may experience several mental problems, and drug addiction or a propensity for crime and prostitution may be observed in these cases [7]. In addition, children in infancy who are exposed to neglect and abuse are more likely to abuse other children in their close environment when they become adults, thus contributing to a vicious cycle (this behavior being repeated by later generations): A previous study confirmed this claim, as mothers and fathers who were abused early in life also abuse their own children, and the study concludes that what really matters is that children are safe from neglect, abuse and other types of harm [7].

To keep children safe, it is necessary to identify the symptoms of child neglect and abuse and ensure that legal notices regarding this type of behavior are filed in accordance with legal procedures. Like other public officials, teachers have certain responsibilities regarding child abuse, and they are obligated to file legal notice in case they witness such incidents. [11, 12]. Additionally, studies have shown that teachers play a crucial role in recognizing and preventing child abuse because they are often the first professionals to have a close, long-term relationship with children and they communicate with children in this frame. [1, 13]. Thus, alongside prevention efforts, teachers should also take responsibility for identifying child victims of abuse and reporting such cases to the appropriate authorities. [13, 14].

According to Article 280 of the Turkish Penal Code, all officials must file a legal notification if they become aware of child abuse cases as soon as possible. Similarly, healthcare professionals have special responsibilities with regard to filing a legal notification in such cases. [15]; since health professionals participate in health facilities where it is possible to identify neglected and abused children, they are expected to be competent with regard to such identification [2]. Accordingly, since teachers in professional medical schools train and teach those who may become future health personnel, it is of utmost importance that they are knowledgeable and qualified on the subject.

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