Exposure to violence predicts poor educational outcomes in young children in South Africa and Malawi

Int Health. 2016 Jan;8(1):36-43. doi: 10.1093/inthealth/ihv070. Epub 2015 Dec 17.


Background: Violence during childhood may affect short and long-term educational factors. There is scant literature on younger children from resource poor settings.

Methods: This study assessed child violence experiences (harsh punishment and exposure to domestic or community violence) and school enrolment, progress and attendance in children attending community-based organisations in South Africa and Malawi (n=989) at baseline and at 15 months' follow-up, examining differential experience of HIV positive, HIV affected and HIV unaffected children.

Results: Violence exposure was high: 45.4% experienced some form of psychological violence, 47.8% physical violence, 46.7% domestic violence and 41.8% community violence. Primary school enrolment was 96%. Violence was not associated with school enrolment at baseline but, controlling for baseline, children exposed to psychological violence for discipline were more than ten times less likely to be enrolled at follow-up (OR 0.09; 95% CI 0.01 to 0.57). Harsh discipline was associated with poor school progress. For children HIV positive a detrimental effect of harsh physical discipline was found on school performance (OR 0.10; 95% CI 0.02 to 0.61).

Conclusion: Violence experiences were associated with a number of educational outcomes, which may have long-term consequences. Community-based organisations may be well placed to address such violence, with a particular emphasis on the challenges faced by children who are HIV positive.

Keywords: Children and young people; Educational outcomes; Malawi; Maltreatment; South Africa; Violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Educational Status
  • Exposure to Violence / psychology*
  • Exposure to Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Malawi
  • Male
  • South Africa
  • Students / psychology*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*