Severe punishment of children by staff in Romanian placement centers for school-aged children: effects of child and institutional characteristics

Child Abuse Negl. 2013 Dec;37(12):1152-62. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.07.003. Epub 2013 Aug 7.


The objective of this study was to determine whether children's characteristics and/or institutional characteristics were predictors of severe punishments (including beatings) and/or frequency of punishments that children received from staff in Romanian institutions. The data was hierarchical with institutionalized children (N=1391) nested within 44 institutions, and the measurement of punishments by the staff and frequency of punishments had a binary distribution. Thus, multilevel logistic regression models were used to examine the effects of individual and institutional level variables on reported punishments and to account for the clustering of the children within institutions. Two general patterns of results emerged. First, regarding individual level variables, it was found that: (1) amount of time spent by children in their current institutions had a significant effect on the probability of being punished by staff and the frequency of this punishment; (2) the probability of being punished was higher for boys than for girls; and (3) having no siblings in the institution increased the odds of being punished several times. Second, regarding institutional level variables: (4) being in placement centers for school-aged children with a traditional type of institutional organization increased the odds of severe punishment compared to a familial/mixed type. The results of the present study highlight the importance of understanding the consequences of institutionalization in a broader way, where children not only experienced early severe psychosocial deprivation as documented in other studies, but also high levels of severe punishments administered by institutional staff.

Keywords: Child abuse; Institutional care; Institutionalization; Orphanage; Placement center; Punishment; Romania.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Institutionalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Only Child
  • Orphanages
  • Punishment* / psychology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Romania / epidemiology
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult