Prevalence of Various Forms of Child Abuse Among College-Going Young Adults in Urban Chennaiâ??A cross sectional Study

Journal of Advanced Practices in Nursing

ISSN: 2573-0347

Open Access

Research - (2021) Volume 6, Issue 7

Prevalence of Various Forms of Child Abuse Among College-Going Young Adults in Urban Chennaiâ??A cross sectional Study

Adhilakshmi AR*#, Evangeline Mary A# and Yamuna Devi R#
*Correspondence: Adhilakshmi AR, Department of Community Medicine, Government Kilpauk Medical College, India, Email:
1Department of Community Medicine, Government Kilpauk Medical College, India
2Department of Community Medicine, Government Stanley Medical College, India
3Department of Community Medicine, Government Stanley Medical College, India
#Equally contribution


Introduction: Child abuse is violation of the basic human right. It leaves behind a negative impact on the child’s physical and mental health. In developing countries like India where the focus is on control of communicable diseases, child abuse goes unnoticed and grossly under-reported.

Aim of the study: To estimate the prevalence of child abuse and its various forms, neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse among college-going young adults (18-24 years) in urban Chennai.

Materials and Methods: A cross sectional study was conducted among 485 young adults (18-24 years) in colleges of three zones of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, selected by multistage sampling method. Data was collected using a self-administered, semi-structured questionnaire based on ‘A study on child abuse in India 2007 by Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India’. Descriptive statistics were analyzed using Statistical package for Social Sciences software version 21.

Results and Discussion: Of the 485 participants, 85.4% reported abuse when they were less than 18 years old. Neglect was experienced by 52.5% of participants, emotional abuse by 35.5%, physical abuse by 62.7% and sexual abuse by 36.3%. Though the findings of many studies done on abuse did not complement each other, the overall prevalence of abuse was found to be higher as in this study.

Conclusion: Multi-dimensional approach is needed to combat the problem of child abuse. Steps to improve prompt reporting of child abuse and further explorative research on its risk factors in various settings would provide opportunities for early intervention, thus preventing its long term impact on children.


Children are country's future human resource. The Convention on the rights of the child, UNICEF (Article 1) defines a 'child' as a person below the age of 18, unless the laws of a particular country set the legal age for adulthood younger [1]. According to the 2011 Census, there were 440 million children below the age of 18 years who constitute 42% of India’s total population. In Tamilnadu, 30.5% of people are aged below eighteen years.

According to WHO: ''Child abuse or maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child's health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power''[2]. The experiences during childhood have an impact on development of intelligence, emotions and personality.

Global status report on violence prevention developed by WHO reports that 25% of all adults were physically abused, 36% were emotionally abused and 20% of women and 7.7% of men were sexually abused as a child. It also estimated that the prevalence of child maltreatment in South East Asian region was 88% [3].

A study among children and young adults of 13 states in India conducted by Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) in 2007 reported that 48.4% of children experienced emotional abuse, 69% physical abuse and 53.2% sexual abuse [4]. A study done among school-going adolescent girls in a semi-urban area of Delhi in 2016 by Daral et al. reported prevalence of at least any one form of abuse as 70%, neglect- 40.1%, emotional abuse37.9%, physical abuse- 42.6% and sexual abuse- 26.6% [5]. Another study conducted in Thrissur city among school-going adolescent students in 2019 by Manoj Therayil Kumar et al estimated the life time prevalence of abuse as 91%, Neglect- 66.9%, emotional abuse-73.4%, physical abuse-73.9% and sexual abuse- 19.9% [6].

Though violence against children is preventable, it exists in every country of the world and is considered as a way to discipline children. Large number of child sexual abuse goes unnoticed and unreported because of the innocence of the victim, abusers are usually in the trust worthy position of the child, stigma attached to the act, inaccessibility of reporting authorities and insensitivity of the investigating and the law enforcement agencies [7].

Only handful of studies are done in Tamilnadu on child abuse and those studies have focused on child sexual abuse. As the magnitude of all forms of abuse in Tamilnadu is not known, this study will throw light in that area.

Material and Method

The study was conducted as a college based cross sectional study among young adults (18-24 years) in three selected zones of Chennai, Tamil Nadu from July 2015 to December 2015. The aim of the study was to estimate the prevalence of child abuse and its various forms, neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse.

The collection of data from a child would require consent from the parent and since parental influence on responses of a child is unavoidable, it was decided to conduct the study among young adults. As abuse is an unpleasant experience it remains as an unforgettable memory and hence minimizes recall bias. Data collection in the house among young adults (18-24 years) would again compromise the responses and so a pre-tested, self-administered, semi structured questionnaire was used to record the responses from students at their colleges.

The students of age 18-24 years from selected colleges who were willing to participate in the study were included and attempts were not made to contact the absentees on the day of data collection and they were excluded.

The sample size was calculated using the formula for cross sectional studies: (Z (1-α/2)) 2 *p * q/ d2 , where Z (1-α/2) =1.96 at 95% confidence interval, p=Prevalence, q=1-p, d=Allowable error

The combined prevalence (p) of 47.7% was used based on the MWCD study on child abuse [4]. Considering confidence level of 95%, relative precision of 10%, with 15% excess sampling to account for non- response, sample size derived was 485.

Three zones from the 15 zones of the Corporation of Chennai and one college from each zone were chosen randomly by lots method. From each college, one third of the sample size (i.e.) 162 students were chosen by systematic random sampling. Data collection was done in the colleges after obtaining permission from The Dean/ Principal of concerned colleges, Director/ Head of the respective departments, approval from the Institute Ethics Committee and written consent from the participants.

A pre-tested, self-administered, semi structured questionnaire was used for data collection. The questionnaire was developed based on the questionnaire used in MWCD study consisting of socio demographic profile, history of child abuse which includes neglect, physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The questionnaire was modified in content and sequence according to the local needs and validated with the help of expert opinion, peer review & pilot study. It was translated into Tamil and again back translated to English to ensure that the meaning of the message conveyed did not vary.

162 students from each college were divided into batches of 40 students. They were seated with adequate space between them to ensure privacy. They were sensitized to the study topic followed by an interactive session to clarify all their queries. After the data collection, a short lecture about the rights of a child in India, how to suspect abuse in a child and helpline services available was given by the principal investigator. During individual interaction with few participants advice was given on how to overcome the after effects of child abuse and approach life in a positive manner.

The operational definitions of child abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse based on MWCD study [4]. The socioeconomic status was classified based on Modified B.G. Prasad Classification, 2015.

The data was entered in Microsoft Excel and exported to Statistical Package for Social Sciences software version 21 for analysis. The answers to questions on child abuse were coded to get binomial response. Descriptive analysis was done for all variables and the frequencies noted.


Child abuse is a dark reality and a large iceberg of it still hidden unrevealed in the community and most important is that it is preventable. Survival, health care, nutrition, education, development and safety are most fundamental rights of the child. Child abuse in any form be it mild or severe leads to physical, mental, emotional, sexual, behavioral, developmental and cognitive problem in future.

The teaching curriculum of experts who deal with child or child abuse (teachers, doctors, police, advocates) should include inculcating knowledge about child rights and its protection. The caregivers of a child should be taught about the good parenting skills. Life skill education to enhance the knowledge and capacity to deal with abuse should become an integral part of the school curriculum. Mass media propaganda can be utilized to create awareness of general public on ill effects of child abuse and how to prevent it.

The already existing child protection schemes are to be strengthened to provide prompt support and care services for victims. The punishment for those who indulge in severe forms of abuse should be severe and immediate. The various predictors or risk factors of child abuse needs to be revealed by further studies so that targeted intervention could be planned for prevention.


No funding sources

Ethical Approval

The study was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee

Conflict of Interest

The study was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee


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