Child abuse and neglect among orphaned children and youth living in extended families in sub-Saharan Africa: What have we learned from qualitative inquiry?

Vulnerable Child Youth Stud. 2013 Jan 1;8(4):338-352. doi: 10.1080/17450128.2013.764476.


Researchers and aid organizations have reported that orphans in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect. This article is a review of qualitative studies that address experiences of maltreatment among orphaned children and youth living in extended families in SSA. It aims to inform policy and programming by providing a better understanding of the types of maltreatment encountered and the perceived risk factors. A literature search was carried out using Google, PubMed, Scholars Portal Search and Scopus. Searches of relevant bibliographies and publications of authors were also undertaken. Studies from peer-reviewed journals and the grey literature were reviewed for relevance and quality. Eligible studies had to include orphans living with extended family in SSA as participants, explore their maltreatment experiences and employ a sound qualitative methodology. Findings were coded, extracted, compared and synthesized. Twenty articles, representing 15 studies, were selected. These studies, from diverse SSAn countries, reported similar forms of maltreatment among orphaned children and youth: experiences of intra-household discrimination; material and educational neglect; excessive child labour; exploitation by family members and psychological, sexual and physical abuse. The perceived risk factors were poverty, living with a non-biological caregiver, stigma and alcohol abuse. The findings of the included studies suggest that awareness, prevention and intervention initiatives aimed to curb child abuse and neglect within communities in SSA are needed and should be coupled with efforts to promote education and reduce poverty and stigma.

Keywords: Africa; abuse; neglect; orphan; qualitative review.