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Violence against children: One in four children is abused

Violence against children
Violence against children
©: Firma V - Fotolia

In 2013, the Bepanthen Children Foundation at the University of Bielefeld underwent a study to the subject of "disrespect in children" and "violence against children". All in all, 900 children between 10 – 16 years were interviewed. The result was startling: In Germany, one in four children are abused. Children from disadvantaged families are particularly affected. In other words, physical abuse is part of their everyday life.

A nonviolent upbringing is part of the Constitution

Section 1631 of the Civil Lawbook declares that every child has the right of a non-violent upbringing. What is the background of this legislation? In 1989, the United Nations adopted the Children’s Convention, which was signed by Germany a year later with the ratification finished in 1992. However, it took until 2013 that a law against violent upbringing was adopted.

Is violence against children declining?

In March 2012, the Forsa Institute launched a survey to determine whether violence against children is declining. In this survey, it was found that about 40 percent of parents punish their children physically. This high percentage indicates that violence against children is still an important social issue.

Disregarded: a form of violence

However, violence against children is not always in the form of physical abuse. Much worse, when children are ignored, insulted or told to be stupid or lazy. This creates a sense of worthlessness in young people. They often suffer from performance anxiety, which in turn increases the stress level. This increased level of stress can ultimately lead to depression or contribute aggressive behaviour.

This kind of verbal abuse not only happens in the children’s homes. You can hear that in schools and other government institutions just as well. No less serious are the consequences that result from bullying other children. This, however, does not necessarily happen only in the direct personal environment of the child. Those children who use Internet forums, chat rooms or social networks run the risk of being bullied themselves one day. Particularly on the Internet, the bullying of children has reached a new dimension. For those affected, that can potentially mean, complete social isolation with committing suicide at its worst outcome.

The consequences of violence against children are severe

When experience violence or witness violence their sense of security dramatically changes, according to several studies. Therefore, the German Child Protection Agency has adopted a position on violence prevention published and confirmed by the UNICEF. According to the study, young people who grew up in a violent environment show as adults more frequently delusions, anxiety, depression or alcohol and drug abuse as young people who are not affected by violence. Not to be underestimated, however, should be the psychological violence against children, which can have a significant impact on personal development.

An important topic: The parent-child relationship

The graduate teacher Katharina Saalfrank has supported the study of the Bepanthen Children Promotion. She says in no uncertain terms that no child is born violent. However, if children grow up in an environment, where violence is the only way of problem-solving, those children have rarely the chance to grow out of this downward spiral. The risk of being violent themselves on day increases immensely.

An important factor: The social environment

The study clearly shows that the social environment plays a huge role in a child’s upbringing. Children who are growing up in a disadvantaged environment suffer twice as much from violence than children growing up in a non-violent environment. What it is needed is prevention. This means a family should be supported before it even gets in such a crisis that violence can spark. Furthermore, children would need confidants and contact points where they can get help for their situation.

Source: Bepanthen Children Promotion (only in german language)

Youth work - Working with children and young people with different life stories

Working with children with with different life stories
Working with children with with different life stories

While working with children, you will meet children from diverse backgrounds. Most of the time, we don’t know anything about the life of the child; and if then it’s just a few fragments. If we could make an effort to get them to know better, we would also understand their little quirks and sometimes strange behaviour.

  • How quickly are we to punish, regulate and judge?

  • How willing are we to call children/adolescence to be violent and defiant?

  • How quickly do we dislike a certain behaviour?

  • How much effort do we out in to learn the background story?

  • How empathic are we, trying to build a relationship with the child/young person?

No child is born violent

The children and young people need guidance, people they can trust. Parents, teacher as every other person in the child’s life who approaches the child with violence will only achieve, that the child will get violent as well, later in life. And besides that, treating children violently only shows, how powerless the adult feels with little to no problem-solving skills themselves.

Providing directions would mean solving problems with love, heart and know how.

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