Children growing up in societies that experience high levels of gender inequality are more likely to be abused and neglected, a study warns. Researchers at Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the US found that the rate of physical abuse of children varied between 1 and 43 per cent, while child neglect rates stood between 0.8 and 49 per cent. Rates of discrimination against women substantially influence the levels of child physical abuse and child neglect, researchers said. “Efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect might benefit from reducing gender inequity,” researchers said. Researchers analysed data about severe physical discipline of children, such as being hit, slapped or repeatedly beaten, or child neglect from 57 countries worldwide.
The data was based on surveys conducted by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Demographic and Health Surveys conducted by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) from 2011 to 2015. Face-to-face questionnaires were completed by adult caregivers. They were asked about an index child in the household aged between one and 14, and about the levels of discipline the child was subjected to. Researchers considered three country-based indices of gender inequity to investigate gender-based gaps.
These were the Social and Institutional Gender Index or SIGI (which measures discrimination against women), the Gender Inequality Index or GII (which measures health economic and power inequities), and the Gender Gap Index or GGI (a measure of economic, education, health and political power). Researchers also found all three gender inequity indices to be significantly associated with physical abuse and two of the three to be significantly associated with neglect.
Specifically, higher scores indicating greater levels of discrimination against women on the SIGI, greater gender inequity on the GII, and lower scores on the GGI indicating greater gender gaps are associated with higher rates of child physical abuse and child neglect, researchers said. About 44 per cent of the countries included in the analysis are considered to have a high or very high level of human development, while a third is seen as having low human development. The study was published in the Journal of Family Violence.