Majority of Georgian children experience different kinds of physical and psychological violence
19 March. 2009. TBILISI. The National Study on Violence against Children in Georgia reveals that children in Georgia have been experiencing high levels of violence in different setting. 79.8 per cent and 82.3 per cent of children under age 11 experienced physical and psychological punishments respectively while 44 per cent of children between 11-18 years reported physical, 59.1 per cent - psychological and 9 per cent - sexual victimization.
According to the UNICEF commissioned study, the use of physical and psychological punishment starts at home at an early age, and occurs despite an apparent willingness of parents to use positive management techniques in rearing their children. For the older children it is clear that in addition to ongoing violent discipline, by adults in their homes, peer violence is well spread. Within both residential institutions and schools, while peer violence is the major issue, attention should also be paid to the use of physical and psychological violence perpetrated by adults working in the institutions and schools.
“The issue of violence against and among children is of great concern to us” said Giovanna Barberis, UNICEF Representative in Georgia. “It has always been widespread but is a denied issue worldwide. The surveys conducted in Georgia revealed a quite high level of violence against and among children but I would like to highlight that the situation in Georgia is not different from the rest of the countries where the study was conducted. I am pleased to note that almost all parents (90.8%) are using some positive management methods. Despite this, they also use a range of physical and psychological punishments when disciplining their children. There are a number of alarming issues in Georgia such peer pressure in schools and a high rate of so called baby shaking syndrome (46.1 per cent) that is potentially dangerous, and if done violently, can cause brain damage”, Barberis added.
The study reveals that students’ attitude to school is positive and most of them feel safe at school, but 47.1 per cent of children reported experiencing physical violence and 47.5 per cent psychological violence at school. Commonly violence breaks up among students; however adults in school settings are also cited for physical and psychological violence against children. Generally the violence among students occurs in the school play areas, and/or on the way to and from school.
Both physical and psychological punishments were found to start at an early age. 19 percent of children aged one year or under were physically disciplined rising to 90 per cent of four to seven year olds. Psychological punishments followed a similar pattern. The most common reported physical punishments were smacking on the bottom with a hand, shaking, pulling hair, and twisting ears, while the most common forms of psychological punishment were yelling, calling the child derisory names and cursing the child or threatening to abandon the child.
It is of particular concern that just over a fifth of respondents (21.5%) reported they had repeatedly hit their child (beat him/her up). Eight respondents admitted trying to choke or suffocate the child and 6 burning him/her.
“We are closely working with our Government partners to address the issue of violence in the ongoing social system reform”, said Giovanna Barberis. “I am specifically talking about the child welfare reform – where children affected by violence, abuse and neglect are one of the priority target groups of the new action plan. Juvenile justice reform is another area where our support to the Ministry of Justice is focusing on improving the situation of children in conflict with the law. Within the education sector the Ministry of Education and Science has developed a safe schools programme in response to growing concern over a number of incidents of extreme violence in schools among children. We are also working with our partners to promote better parenting aimed at improving knowledge and skills of families in child rearing. It is important for parents to know that using violent methods for child rearing will result in children themselves applying the same violent way of solving the problems.” Barberis added.
According to the study recommendations there is a need to raise awareness about the extent and consequences of violence against children among the public and professional communities. Building on existing strengths, such as parent’s willingness to use non violent discipline methods and children’s positive views of schools and parental support is critical.
In response to the UN study on Violence against Children UNICEF commissioned the National Study on Violence against Children in Georgia in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs and Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation. The study aimed to identify the extent and nature of violence (physical, sexual, emotional and neglect) experienced by children. The survey sample included children in IDP centers, residential institutions and schools.
Additional component of the Study was the National Study on School Violence conducted in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia. The Study describes the situation of child abuse and neglect in schools and the nearby areas.
Both Surveys were conducted in 2007-2008 by the NGO Public Health and Medicine Development Fund in collaboration with the International Society for Prevention of Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN).
For further information, please contact:
Maya Kurtsikidze, Communication Officer, UNICEF Georgia