Epidemiological survey for preventing child abuse in Estonia

For many years, the issue of family violence has been a taboo in Estonia. The aim of the present research was to get an idea of how much and what types of child abuse can be found in Estonian families and which are the main risk groups. The current survey was carried out in spring 2000. It was found out that child abuse is very prevalent in Estonia. 93% of children have been abused during their lifetime. Kadri Soo, Indrek Soo, Ruth Soonets Tartu 2001, Estonia.

During the Soviet regime the issue of family violence could not be mentioned. Instead of solving the problem it was denied. The aim of the present research was to get an idea of how much and what types of child abuse can be found in Estonian families, and which are the main risk groups. We wanted to see what are the results of child abuse in the family, and whether there are any evident connections between the abused children and the future abuse of their own children. The survey covers on the average 14?16-years-old children in schools with both Estonian and Russian as the tuition language all over Estonia. Our research includes 874 pupils in the sample. The sample is compiled in such a way that it is representative of all the main groups of pupils taken separately in every country as well. Data collection will be carried out as a questionnaire survey by grades. The survey took place in spring 2000. It was found out that 93% of children have been affected by abuse during their childhood. Most widespread was emotional abuse (over 80% of all respondents), which occurs often together with other forms of abuse. 1/3 have experienced a slight form of physical abuse (pinching, poking) and 16% severe one (biting, beating with hand or some instruments). 57% of respondents have experienced sexual abuse, mostly verbal sexual abuse, but 3% of them has been physically- sexually abused. Unlikely to many others studies, girls seemed to suffer from abuse more frequently than boys. They had experienced more emotional and sexual abuse and also more physical abuse. Estonians were abused more physically and sexually, Russians more emotionally. The risk of child abuse is higher in families where there are often conflicts between family members, low parental involvement in the family and cold or hostile relationships between children and their parents. Those parents who had been abused during their own childhood were more likely than others to abuse their own children.

We found that family sociopathy (alcohol problems) and some family member's disability or handicap problems might predict child maltreatment; low family income and poor parental warmth are associated with risk for child neglect. The abused children have low self-esteem and scholastic proficiency. Many pupils who have experienced violence and educational neglect have been absent from the school without any reason. Abused children are more likely to be victims of school violence. These children are afraid of their parents and they have sometimes run away from home. Physically punished and abused children are more prone to undertake physical discipline while raising their own child in the future. We presume that the best for pupils is to get immediate help from school - a supplementary schooling should be given to teachers, school psychologists and school doctors so that they would recognize an abused child and could direct him to the aid network. A pupil prefers to talk with one's friends - the aid pupils schooling might be an alternative information channel for distressed children to get information about the aid network.