Tue, Nov 11, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Media called unhelpful in fighting child abuse

SOCIETY The heavy coverage of child abuse could make it seem OK as more parents take their frustrations out on their children, according to a new government study

BY CODY YIU  /  STAFF REPORTER

Intense media coverage of child abuse cases sets a bad example for society, according to an official at the Bureau of Social Affairs in Taitung County, which has the highest incidence of child abuse in the country.

"The downside of advances in information technology is the media's heavy coverage of details of many domestic violence and child abuse cases, which might actually act as blueprints for the rest of society to imitate," the official, Yang Chong-yun (楊忠雲), said.

Statistics released recently by the Ministry of the Interior shows that Taitung County had the highest rate of child abuse between January and June this year.

In the county, 23.4 children out of every 10,000 were abused during this period, compared with 7.4 per 10,000 across the nation as a whole. The next highest rates were in Pingtung County (17.7) and Hualien County (13.6).

Physical mistreatment was the most common kind of abuse, at 37.7 percent of total cases, followed by negligence (28 percent) and mental abuse (9.7 percent).

In a sample of 2,391 abused children, 80.2 percent were abused by their parents. According to this survey, the main factors contributing to parental abuse were lack of correct parenting knowledge (27.3 percent), dysfunctional marriage (19.7 percent) and alcohol and drug abuse (12.5 percent).

"The high unemployment rate in Taitung County and drinking problems are the main causes of child abuse," Yang said.

Yang said that in previous years, many parents had moved out of Taitung County to find jobs, leaving their children behind. But the slowing economy prompted many to return to their family homes in the county.

"Once they are home and still can't find sources of income, they might become very depressed, turn to alcohol for relief and treat their children as punching bags," Yang said.

Yang said that the long absence of these parents weakened the relationship between them and their children. The parents would then have trouble knowing how to live or communicate with their children.

"The tremendous amount emotional stress of not having a stable income can be overwhelming, and it is unfortunate that some children become their parents' means to vent their anxiety," Yang said.

Chen Chin-hung (陳敬宏), the head of the ministry's Statistical Information Service, said that low levels of education could also be a factor in the high abuse rate in the eastern region.

"The lack of education might result in incorrect parenting skills, as poorly educated parents may not know how to treat their children with care" Chen said.

Yang said that an unstable family environment was a contributing factor in child abuse cases but that disagreements between parents meant that abused children were more like to come to the attention of the authorities.

"Children in dysfunctional families are more likely to be abused compared to children in functional families," Yang said.

But "many parents who do not live with their children are very worried about how their children are being treated by the other parent who takes care of them," Yang said. "Once they discover that their children have been abused by the other parent, they will call us for help."

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