Street children and their relationship with the police

Int Nurs Rev. 2008 Mar;55(1):89-96. doi: 10.1111/j.1466-7657.2007.00610.x.


Background: This paper explores and analyses the experiences of school-age street children. It specifically addresses the relationship of the street children who live on the streets of São Paulo (a large Brazilian metropolis), in relation to their experiences, with the policemen.

Methods: The paper is a secondary analysis of date previously collected in 1999. The data were collected through individual semi-structured interviews, with 14 school-age children frequenting two city public refuges, with their legal guardians' consent. The text from transcribed interviews was organized according to the validity norms of 'thematic analysis', a technique of contents analysis method. The decomposing and reconstructing process of that analysis gave rise to thematic categories (among which 'the police category') that represented the reconstruction of the difficulties faced by the children in their development.

Results and discussion: The children portrayed the police as an enemy, a fearful figure and one of the most agonizing street experiences. Rarely did the police have a positive image to them. According to the children, police violence occurs in three forms: through systematic police persecution in an effort to remove the children from the streets against their will; actions that had the deliberate intent to humiliate them with verbal or physical aggression; and through alleged sexual abuse, revealed by the children in a veiled manner. The authority that is supposedly intended to protect them is portrayed as one of the most feared social agents.

Conclusion: The reported hostile behaviour of the policemen shows the state of vulnerability of those children living on the street. This situation must be focused like a health problem because it causes injury to development of children. Nurses can help them through organizing assistance to children in situation of personal and social risk in the school nursing and health institution.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Brazil
  • Child
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Homeless Youth / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Minors / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Minors / psychology*
  • Police*
  • Social Environment
  • Violence / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Violence / psychology