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Domestic abuse of children severely reduces their educational achievement

22nd April 2015

By: Econ3x3


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Many South African children are maltreated in the home in some way, but we know little about the long-term effects of abuse on child development. One in two young South Africans indicates that family members often lose their tempers with each other (Leoschut, 2009), and one in four indicates that he or she is often beaten at home as a punishment for his or her misdemeanours (Leoschut and Burton, 2006). Two recent studies (Walker et al. 2007; 2011) identify exposure to violence as a major risk factor for long-term child development in developing countries.

To assess the long-term developmental impact of violence against children, we explore the effect of the maltreatment of children on two measures of educational outcomes: numeracy test scores and drop-out rates at high school. We use four measures of childhood maltreatment at home: being hit hard; being pushed; having a fear of being hurt; and being put down by adults.


We present evidence of the relationship between various measures of maltreatment during childhood and educational outcomes and quantify the size of the effect based on data from the Cape Area Panel Study (see Pieterse 2014).[1]

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Written by Duncan Pieterse, Director: Microeconomic Policy, National Treasury

This article was first published on the Econ3x3 website – Accessible policy-relevant research and expert commentaries on unemployment and employment, income distribution and inclusive growth in South Africa.


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