The prevalence and context of family violence against children in Finland

Sariola, H.; Uutela, A.

Child Abuse and Neglect 16(6): 823-832


ISSN/ISBN: 0145-2134
PMID: 1486511
Accession: 009609900

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The prevalence and context of violence against children in their families was surveyed as a part of a study on the sexual abuse of children. A random sample of 409 comprehensive school classes with approximately 9,000 15-year-olds was asked to anonymously fill out questionnaries. The majority filled out the questionnaires in the privacy of the school nurse's office, the rest in their classrooms. Of the selected classes, 88.8% participated in the survey, and the response rate of the students in those classes was 96%. Mild violence (slapping, pushing, etc.) was reported by 72% of the respondents, and severe violence (hitting with a fist, kicking, use of weapons) was reported by 8%. Violence was committed by the parents sometime before the children reached aged 14. Incidents of violence during the year preceding the survey were reported by 19% and 5%, mild and severe, respectively. Mild violence was committed slightly more often by mothers than fathers. Severe violence was perpetrated more frequently by fathers. Girls reported mild abuse more often than boys. Severe violence was experienced equally often by both sexes. Children living with single mothers reported less-than-average mild violence, but more frequent severe violence. The highest incidence of severe violence was found among youth living in families with a stepfather. Unemployment in a family tended to increase both mild and severe violence. Violence was reported least often by children living in farming families or Swedish speaking families (which make up about 6% of Finnish population). Overall the frequency of violence toward children in Finalnd is significantly lower than in the U.S. Comparison to Sweden seems to show an indentical level of child abuse, although different study methods make comparison difficult.