Experiences of violence and deficits in academic achievement among urban primary school children in Jamaica

Child Abuse Negl. 2009 May;33(5):296-306. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2008.05.011. Epub 2009 May 29.


Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between children's experiences of three different types of violence and academic achievement among primary school children in Kingston, Jamaica.

Methods: A cross-sectional study of 1300 children in grade 5 [mean (S.D.) age: 11 (0.5) years] from 29 government primary schools in urban areas of Kingston and St. Andrew, Jamaica, was conducted. Academic achievement (mathematics, reading, and spelling) was assessed using the Wide Range Achievement Test. Children's experiences of three types of violence - exposure to aggression among peers at school, physical punishment at school, and exposure to community violence - were assessed by self-report using an interviewer administered questionnaire.

Results: Fifty-eight percent of the children experienced moderate or high levels of all three types of violence. Boys had poorer academic achievement and experienced higher levels of aggression among peers and physical punishment at school than girls. Children's experiences of the three types of violence were independently associated with all three indices of academic achievement. There was a dose-response relationship between children's experiences of violence and academic achievement with children experiencing higher levels of violence having the poorest academic achievement and children experiencing moderate levels having poorer achievement than those experiencing little or none.

Conclusions: Exposure to three different types of violence was independently associated with poor school achievement among children attending government, urban schools in Jamaica. Programs are needed in schools to reduce the levels of aggression among students and the use of physical punishment by teachers and to provide support for children exposed to community violence.

Practice implications: Children in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean experience significant amounts of violence in their homes, communities, and schools. In this study, we demonstrate a dose-response relationship between primary school children's experiences of three different types of violence and their academic achievement. The study points to the need for validated violence prevention programs to be introduced in Jamaican primary schools. Such programs need to train teachers in appropriate classroom management and discipline strategies and to promote children's social and emotional competence and prevent aggression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Measurement*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Jamaica
  • Male
  • Schools*
  • Students
  • Urban Population
  • Violence*
  • Young Adult