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Child Abuse in Latin America and the Caribbean. Angela D. Garner MPH Candidate GWU PAHO Research Assistant Alberto Concha-Eastman PAHO – Washington, DC. Presentation Format. Definitions Risk Factors Studies/Situation PAHO’s Role Summary. General Definition of Child Abuse.

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Child Abuse in Latin America and the Caribbean

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child abuse in latin america and the caribbean

Child Abuse in Latin America and the Caribbean

Angela D. Garner

MPH Candidate GWU

PAHO Research Assistant

Alberto Concha-Eastman

PAHO – Washington, DC

presentation format
Presentation Format
  • Definitions
  • Risk Factors
  • Studies/Situation
  • PAHO’s Role
  • Summary
general definition of child abuse
General Definition of Child Abuse
  • 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.(WHO, 1999)
components of the definition
Components of the Definition
  • Physical Abuse
    • Results in actual or potential physical harm from an interaction or lack of an interaction by the parent or caregiver.
    • May be a single or repeated incident
components of the definition cont
Components of the Definition (cont.)
  • Emotional Abuse
    • Belittling
    • Threatening
    • Ridiculing
    • Non-physical
    • These cause the child not to develop emotional stability focusing on mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
components of the definition cont6
Components of the Definition (cont.)
  • Neglect and negligent treatment
    • Failure to provide basic necessities for the child which could result in harm to the child.
    • Failure to properly supervise and protect a child from harm as much as possible, which could lead to harm.
sexual abuse
Sexual Abuse
  • Involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not understand.
  • Unable to give informed consent.
  • Violation of the laws or social taboos.
  • WHO estimates 40 million children 0-14 years suffer from abuse.
  • Injuries, unintentional and intentional accounted for 16% of the global burden of disease in 1998.
  • US alone: one million children were proven victims of child abuse or suspected child abuse.
situation cont
Situation (cont.)
  • Sexual abuse common in the Caribbean.
  • Corporal punishment high in Latin America.
  • Neglect occurs in families with many children.
health consequences of child abuse
Health Consequences of Child Abuse
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Emotional
  • Long-term
  • Fatal
health consequences of child abuse11
Health Consequences of Child Abuse
  • Physical

-Bruises, welts

-Ocular damage


- Injuries in central nervous system


health consequences of child abuse12
Health Consequences of Child Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse

-Unwanted pregnancy

-Sexually-transmitted Infections


-Adverse outcomes for reproductive health

health consequences of child abuse13
Health Consequences of Child Abuse
  • Emotional and behavioral
    • Poor self-esteem
    • Self -inflicted injury
    • Sleeping disorders
    • Eating disorders
    • Depression and anxiety
    • Feelings of shame and guilt
health consequences of child abuse14
Health Consequences of Child Abuse
  • Long-Term
    • Developmental effects
    • Disability
    • Alcohol/drug abuse
    • Reproductive health outcomes
    • At risk of being abusive
    • Violent behavior
consequences of child abuse
Consequences of Child Abuse
  • Fatal
    • Homicide
    • Suicide
    • Infanticide
    • HIV/AIDS
risk factors for abuse
Risk Factors for Abuse
  • History of child abuse
  • Substance abuse
  • Witnessing abuse
  • Education level
  • Low socio-economic Level
  • Lack of social support
sexual abuse studies
Sexual Abuse Studies
  • Barbados: 30% of female participants were sexually abused.
  • Costa Rica: 32% of female participants were and 13% of male participants sexually abused,
  • Nicaragua: 26% of female participants and 20% of male participants were sexually abused.
sexual abuse studies20
Sexual Abuse Studies
  • Leads to high-risk Behavior
    • Sexual activity starts an early age.
    • Increase in STIs.
    • Increase in unwanted pregnancies.
    • Repeated sexual encounters.
  • Mental health problems
  • Gang activity
corporal punishment
Corporal Punishment
  • Survey in Mexico found
    • Corporal punishment is viewed as a necessary,

positive practice to produce good citizens.

    • Father’s education had no direct effect.
    • Mother’s education level effected parenting.
    • Mother’s occupation did not effect parenting.
    • Abuse higher in families of suspected abuse:

Internal consistency high(Frías-Armenta et al.)

corporal punishment22
Corporal Punishment
  • Survey in Chile among parents whose children attend public and private schools (Vargas et al.).
candies in hell
“Candies in Hell”
  • Cross-sectional study in Leon, Nicaragua.
  • Nearly half the women reported their children witnessed their abuse.
  • Children of abused women more than
    • twice as likely to suffer from learning, emotional and behavioral problems.
    • seven times as likely to be abused(Ellsberg, E.)
nicaragua study
Nicaragua Study

Children of women who witness physical or sexual abuse are six times more likely to die by the age of five.

(Asling-Monemi et al., Jejeebhoy et al.)

  • 938 surveys validated: 80% boys (“homeboys”) 20% girls (hainas).
  • Age: Mean = 20.2 y- Range: 7- 25y
  • Age for becoming a gang member:

7-10 -----> 2%

11-15 ----> 52%

16-25 ----> 46%

(Santacruz-Giralt et al.)

reasons for involvement in gangs
Reasons for Involvement in Gangs


40 %

30 %

20 %

10 %

Hanging around

Family Problems

Peer Presssure

Weak Parental Relationship


activa study
  • Describes the prevalence of aggressive behavior towards their children.
  • Describes the prevalence of corporal punishment.
  • Describes the association between parent’s victimization and aggressive behavior.
activa study cont
ACTIVA Study (cont.)
  • 29% of the parents reported spanking their children.
  • 11% hit them with an object during the 12 months prior to the survey.
  • Spanking
    • 20% in San José, Costa Rica.
    • 36% in Cali, Colombia.
activa study cont29
ACTIVA Study (cont.)
  • Hitting with an object
    • 3% in Santiago, Chile.
    • 3% in Madrid, Spain.
    • 20% in Cali, Colombia.
activa study cont30
ACTIVA Study (cont.)
  • Parents as children
    • 77% reported being spanked as a child at least occasionally.
    • 13% reported being spanked almost every day.
activa study cont31
ACTIVA Study (cont.)
  • Parents spanked as children are more likely to
    • hit their children (OR =2.6).
    • hit their children with an object (OR=3.5).
    • slap their partner (OR=2.6).
    • hit their partner with an object (OR=3.6).
    • hit a non-family member (OR=2.8).
paho s role
  • Development of information systems.
  • Promotion of scientific research.
paho s role cont
PAHO’s Role (cont.)
  • Joint agreement with IMCI (Integrated Management of Childhood Illness).
  • Goal: Create networks for the prevention of violence against children.
  • Modify the culture of corporal punishment as a method of disciplining children.
paho s role cont35
PAHO’s Role (cont.)
  • Train health professionals and educators in the detection and care of children at risk or victims of violence
  • Promote schools of non-violence
  • Definitions
  • Risk factors
  • Studies/Situation
  • PAHO’s Role