Two news items about systematic child abuse in child shelters, one in Bihar, and the other in Pune, shocked me. Dozens and dozens of kids had suffered a fate worse than death. I knew these things went on in child shelters – beatings, starvation, sexual assault and drugging of the kids. Even then, when I read about dozens of children suffering like this, it sent a chill up my spine. Both boys and girls subjected to horrific abuse and the government didn’t see it? Neighbours didn’t care when they heard screams of pain and death? Have we lost our humanity?
(The photo on the right is for representative purposes only and taken on the streets of Mumbai)
This has larger and deeper implications. What becomes of these children when they grow up and become adults? Unfortunately, in India, there is no research available, but in foreign countries there is.
The tragedy is that there is a distinct co-relation between child abuse and criminality. Dozens and dozens of studies over the years have proved it. Of course, not all abused children become criminals, but child abuse is a factor.
The National Bureau of Economic Research in Boston, conducted a study of the effects of child maltreatment (by Janet Currie and Erdal Tekin) on crime, using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.
The authors find that child maltreatment roughly doubles the probability that an individual engages in many types of crime. This is true even if we compare twins, one of whom was maltreated when the other one was not.
Abused children who go on to become criminals, tend to start criminal activities earlier, and thus gain experience and as they grow older can turn into hardened criminals. Interestingly, child maltreatment is more of a factor than unemployment.
Another study, beginning in the 1970s, tracked 450 children from preschool to adulthood.
Results showed that childhood abuse increased the risk of adulthood crime by promoting antisocial behavior during childhood and adolescence, followed by the formation of relationships with antisocial romantic partners and peers in adulthood
There are dozens of studies proving this co-relation, although it must be emphasised that child abuse does not always lead to criminality. People do not turn to crime because they were abused. It just increases the chances. Like this article in Psychology Today says:
Some become withdrawn, depressed, blame themselves, and so forth. There are, in other words, a variety of responses. Some formerly abused youngsters turn out to be responsible adults.
The truth is: By not monitoring childrens’ homes well enough, we are damaging young minds, and jeopardising our future. We are poisoning our human capital and putting society at risk.