Importance of Child Rights
Definition of the term Child
A child is any human being below the age of eighteen years, unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. According to Cornell University, a child is a person, not a sub person, and the parent has absolute interest and possession of the child, but this is very much an American view. The term “child” does not necessarily mean minor but can include adult children as well as adult nondependent children
What Every Child Needs
To become a healthy, happy adult, every child need:
- Interaction – Consistent, long- term attention from caring adults.
- Touch – Holding and cuddling does more than merely com fort children, it also helps their brains grow.
- Environment – A safe, healthy living and growing environment is vital. I t should be free of lead, loud noises, sharp objects, unclean areas, and other hazards.
- Communication – Talking with your child builds verbal skills needed to succeed in school and life. I t also helps children learn to relay their feelings of anger, jealousy, and frustration to adults.
- Relationships – A stable relationship with parent s and other caregivers buffer stress from children.
- Self- Esteem – With respect, encouragement, and positive role models from the very beginning. Children can develop wonderful self- esteem that will assist them in life forever.
- Quality Care – When you cannot be with your child, quality care from a trained professional can make all the difference in the world.
- Play – Helps your child explore his/ her senses and discover how the world works. Playing with others help children learn to share and be part of a team; it also stimulates creative thinking.
- Reading – To your child from the very beginning (even while still in the womb) will show the importance of reading and creates a lifelong love of books and the written word.
- Music – Expands your children’s world and teaches them to sing songs and play instruments. It also helps develop their logistical skills and usually enhances their science and math learning
Factors increasing a child’s vulnerability
A number of studies, mostly from the developed world, have suggested that certain characteristics of children increase the risk for abuse:
Vulnerability to child abuse – whether physical, sexual or through neglect – depends in part on a child’s age. Fatal cases of physical abuse are found largely among young infants. Young children are also at risk for non-fatal physical abuse, though the peak ages for such abuse vary from country to country. For example, rates of non-fatal physical abuse peak for children at 3–6 years of age in China, at 6–11 years of age in India and between 6 and 12 years of age in the United States. Sexual abuse rates, on the other hand, tend to rise after the onset of puberty, with the highest rates occurring during adolescence. Sexual abuse, however, can also be directed at young children.
Gender of the child
In most countries, girls are at higher risk than boys for infanticide, sexual abuse, educational and nutritional neglect, and forced prostitution. Findings from several international studies show rates of sexual abuse to be 1.5–3 times higher among girls than boys. Globally, more than 130 million children between the ages of 6 and 11 years are not in school, 60% of whom are girls. In some countries, girls are either not allowed to receive schooling or else are kept at home to help look after their siblings or to assist the family economically by working.
Male children appear to be at greater risk of harsh physical punishment in many countries, although girls are at increased risk for infanticide in many places, it is not clear why boys are subjected to harsher physical punishment. It may be that such punishment is seen as a preparation for adult roles and responsibilities, or else that boys are considered to need more physical discipline. Clearly, the wide cultural gaps that exist between different societies with respect to the role of women and the values attached to male and female children could account for many of these differences.
Premature infants, twins and handicapped children have been shown to be at increased risk for physical abuse and neglect. There are conflicting findings from studies on the importance of mental retardation as a risk factor. It is believed that low birth weight, prematurity, illness, or physical or mental handicaps in the infant or child interfere with attachment and bonding and may make the child more vulnerable to abuse. However, these characteristics do not appear to be major risk factors for abuse when other factors are considered, such as parental and societal variables.
Caregiver and family characteristics
Research has linked certain characteristics of the caregiver to child abuse and neglect. While some factors –including demographic ones – are related to variation in risk, others are related to the psychological and behavioral characteristics of the caregiver or to aspects of the family environment that may compromise parenting and lead to child maltreatment.
Family structure and resources interfering
Physically abusive parents are more likely to be young, single, poor and unemployed and to have less education than their non-abusing counterparts. In both developing and industrialized countries, poor, young, single mothers are among those at greatest risk for using violence towards their children. In the United States, for instance, single mothers are three times more likely to report using harsh physical discipline than mothers in two-parent families. Similar findings have been reported in Argentina, Studies from Bangladesh, Colombia, Italy, Kenya, Sweden, Thailand and the United Kingdom have also found that low education and a lack of income to meet the family’s needs increase the potential of physical violence towards children, though exceptions to this pattern have been noted elsewhere. In a study of Palestinian families, lack of money for the child’s needs was one of the primary reasons given by parents for psychologically abusing their children.
Family size and household composition
The size of the family can also increase the risk for abuse. A study of parents in Chile, for example, found that families with four or more children were three times more likely to be violent towards their children than parents with fewer children. However, it is not always simply the size of the family that matters. Data from a range of countries indicate that household overcrowding increases the risk of child abuse. Unstable family environments, in which the composition of the household frequently changes as family members and others move in and out, are a feature particularly noted in cases of chronic neglect.
Personality and behavioural characteristics
A number of personality and behavioural characteristics have been linked, in many studies, to child abuse and neglect. Parents more likely to abuse their children physically tend to have low self-esteem, poor control of their impulses, mental health problems, and to display antisocial behaviour. Neglectful parents have many of these same problems and may also have difficulty planning important life events such as marriage, having children or seeking employment. Many of these characteristics compromise parenting and are associated with disrupted social relationships, an inability to cope with stress and difficulty in reaching social support systems. Abusive parents may also be uninformed and have unrealistic expectations about child development. Research has found that abusive parents show greater irritation and annoyance in response to their children’s moods and behaviour, that they are less supportive, affectionate, playful and responsive to their children, and that they are more ontrolling and hostile.
Prior history of abuse
Studies have shown that parents maltreated as children are at higher risk of abusing their own children. The relationship here is complex, though and some investigations have suggested that the majority of abusing parents were not, in fact, themselves abused. While empirical data suggest that there is indeed a relationship, the importance of this risk factor may have been overstated. Other factors that have been linked to child abuse – such as young parental age, stress, isolation, overcrowding in the home, substance abuse and poverty – may be more predictive.
Violence in the home
Increasing attention is being given to intimate partner violence and its relationship to child abuse. Data from studies in countries as geographically and culturally distinct as China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa and the United States have all found a strong relationship between these two forms of violence. In a recent study in India, the occurrence of domestic violence in the home doubled the risk of child abuse. Among known victims of child abuse, 40% or more have also reported domestic violence in the home. In fact, the relationship may be even stronger, since many agencies charged with protecting children do not routinely collect data on other forms of violence in families.
Stress and social isolation of the parent have also been linked to child abuse and neglect. It is believed that stress resulting from job changes, loss of income, health problems or other Aspects of the family environment can heighten the level of conflict in the home and the ability of members to cope or find support. Those better able to find social support may be less likely to abuse children, even when other known risk factors are present. In a case– control study in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for instance, children living in single parent families were at significantly greater risk for abuse than those in two-parent families. The risk for abuse was lower, though, among those who were better able to gain access to social support.
Child abuse has also been linked in many studies to substance abuse though further research is needed to disentangle the independent effects of substance abuse from the related issues of poverty, overcrowding, mental disorders and health problems associated with this behaviour.
Numerous studies across many countries have shown a strong association between poverty and child maltreatment. Rates of abuse are higher in communities with high levels of unemployment and concentrated poverty. Such communities are also characterized by high levels of population turnover and overcrowded housing. Research shows that chronic poverty adversely affects children through its impact on parental behaviour and the availability of community resources. Communities with high levels of poverty tend to have deteriorating physical and social infrastructures and fewer of the resources and amenities found in wealthier communities.
Social capital represents the degree of cohesion and solidarity that exists within communities. Children living in areas with less ‘‘social capital’’ or social investment in the community appear to be at greater risk of abuse and have more psychological or behavioural problems. On the other hand, social networks and neighbourhood connections have been shown to be protective of children. This is true even for children with a number of risk factors – such as poverty, violence, substance abuse and parents with low levels of educational achievement – who appear to be protected by high levels of social capital
A range of society-level factors are considered to have important influences on the wellbeing of children and families. These factors – not examined to date in most countries as risk factors for child abuse – include: The role of cultural values and economic forces in shaping the choices facing families and shaping their response to these forces. Inequalities related to sex and income – factors present in other types of violence and likely to be related to child maltreatment as well cultural norms surrounding gender roles, parent–child relationships and the privacy of the family.
Child and family policies – such as those related to parental leave, maternal employment and child care arrangements.
The nature and extent of preventive health care for infants and children, as an aid in identifying cases of abuse in children. The strength of the social welfare system: that is, the sources of support that provide a safety net for children and families. The nature and extent of social protection and the responsiveness of the criminal justice system.
Larger social conflicts and war.
Many of these broader cultural and social factors can affect the ability of parents to care for children –enhancing or lessening the stresses associated with family life and influencing the resources available to families.
Children’s rights are the human rights of children with particular attention to the rights of special protection and care afforded to the young, including their right to association with both biological parents, human identity as well as the basic needs for food, universal statepaid education, health care and criminal laws appropriate for the age and development of the child. Interpretations of children’s rights range from allowing children the capacity for autonomous action to the enforcement of children being physically, mentally and emotionally free from abuse, though what constitutes “abuse” is a matter of debate. Other definitions include the rights to care and nurturing.
Types of rights; Child’s Rights
Children’s rights are defined in numerous ways, including a wide spectrum of civil, cultural, economic, social and political rights. Rights tend to be of two general types: those advocating for children as autonomous persons under the law and those placing a claim on society for protection from harms perpetrated on children because of their dependency. These have been labelled as the right of empowerment and as the right to protection. One Canadian organization categorizes children’s rights into three categories:
Children have the right to an adequate standard of living, health care, education and services, and to play and recreation. These include a balanced diet, a warm bed to sleep in, and access to schooling.
Children have the right to protection from abuse, neglect, exploitation and discrimination. This includes the right to safe places for children to play; constructive child rearing behaviour, and acknowledgment of the evolving capacities of children.
Children have the right to participate in communities and have programs and services for themselves. This includes children’s involvement in libraries and community programs, youth voice activities, and involving children as decision-makers. In a similar fashion, the Child Rights Information Network, or CRIN for short, categorizes rights into two groups:
Economic, social and cultural rights,
Are related to the conditions necessary to meet basic human needs such as food, shelter, education, health care, and gainful employment.
Included are rights to education, adequate housing, food, water, the highest attainable standard of health, the right to work and rights at work, as well as the cultural rights of minorities and indigenous peoples.
Environmental, cultural and developmental rights
Are sometimes, called “third generation rights,” and including the right to live in safe and healthy environments and that groups of people have the right to cultural, political, and economic development.
Importance of Child Rights
There are many reasons why children’s rights are important.
Children are individuals:
Children are neither the possessions of parents nor of the state, nor are they mere people-in-the-making; they have equal status as members of the human family.
Children start life as totally dependent beings:
Children must rely on adults for the nurture and guidance they need to grow towards independence. Such nurture is ideally found in adults in children’s families, but when primary caregivers cannot meet children’s needs, it is up to society to fill the gap.
The actions, or inactions, of government impact children More
Practically every area of government policy (for example, education, public health and so on) affects children to some degree. Short-sighted policymaking that fails to take children into account has a negative impact on the future of all members of society by giving rise to policies that cannot work.
Children’s views are rarely heard & considered in the political process.
Children generally do not vote and do not otherwise take part in political processes. Without special attention to the opinions of children—as expressed at home and in schools, in local communities and even in governments—children’s views go unheard on the many important issues that affect them now or will affect them in the future.
Many changes in society often negative, impact on children.
Transformation of the family structure, globalization, shifting employment patterns and a shrinking social welfare net in many countries all have strong impacts on children. The impact of these changes can be particularly devastating in situations of armed conflict and other emergencies.
The healthy development of children is crucial to the future well-being of any society.
Because they are still developing, children are especially vulnerable—more so than adults—to poor living conditions such as poverty, inadequate health care, nutrition, safe water, housing and environmental pollution. The effects of disease, malnutrition and poverty threaten the future of children and therefore the future of the societies in which they live.
The costs to society of failing its children are huge.
Social research findings show that children’s earliest experiences significantly influence their future development. The course of their development determines their contribution, or cost, to society over the course