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LETTER | Higher child abuse cases may be attributed to economic growth

LETTER | Malaysia was plunged into recession in 2020 with economic growth of -5.65 percent in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, posing a great challenge for all businesses to survive. As a result, the government increased its expenditure in the 2022 budget to extricate the economy from the recession.

Thus, the economy was expected to grow by 5.5-6.5 percent, and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was also expected to increase to US$12,295.73 this year compared to US$10,231.34 in 2020, suggesting a higher standard of living. All Malaysians heaved a sigh of relief, observing the economic recovery.

However, bear in mind that a rise in child abuse cases may loom on the horizon as a result of high economic growth. This has been evidenced by a study published in Economics Bulletin (2021), Volume 41 and Issue 3, that found that higher economic growth can result in a higher number of child abuse cases in Malaysia.

Therefore, it is no wonder that the US, the biggest economy, recorded the highest child abuse rate across the globe.

Child abuse is a never-ending issue as more than 1,000 cases are reported every year, and it follows an upward trend. In 2018, as many as 6,274 cases were reported and increased to 6,382 in 2019.

Cases remain unreported

In 2020, child abuse cases dropped to 5,836 in tandem with a decline in economic growth. Many more cases remained unreported due to several factors, such as shame, fear and so on.

Worse still, most of the perpetrators were their biological mothers. Therefore, this should have set alarm bells ringing and merited serious attention from all parties.

Child abuse may have deleterious impacts on children’s mental development. Studies have also disclosed that children who have been abused before are likely to bully others and commit crimes when they are adults.

As the economy rises, productivity goes up simultaneously. Many parents participate in the labour force, leading them to be busy. Working mothers find it difficult to strike a balance between work and family, prompting them to be stressed out. Thus, they will vent stress on their innocent children.

Other than that, when both parents are employed, they will leave their children in nurseries, where children are likely to fall prey to abuse because babysitters have no biological relationship with the children. Hence, some abuses perpetrated by non-biological mothers are more serious and heinous.

Therefore, parents should know how to control their stress to avoid venting it on their children. They must consult counsellors if they are not able to cope with their stress.

Besides, more severe punishment should be meted out to perpetrators to act as a deterrent to others. Teachers, friends and neighbours must lodge a report to the authorities if they suspect that children may be abused.

MOHD SHAHIDAN SHAARI is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Applied and Human Sciences, Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP)

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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