When I was a junior in high school, I applied for a teaching internship at a local elementary school and I was placed as a teaching assistant for an English teacher in sixth grade. I would stay for the first half of the day, from 8am to after they finished lunch, about 12pm. Afterwards I would head back to my high school for the last two periods of the day. While I was at the elementary school, I helped the students do homework, work on class assignments, answer questions about upcoming projects, practice flash cards, and memorize vocabulary lists.
I grew very close to the students in the class. They would come into school every morning, get their breakfast, and come sit and eat at my table in the classroom, telling me all about the day they had the day before. Every day when we took our daily bathroom break right before lunch time, they would always fight over who got to walk with me to the lunchroom, until one day was different. I noticed we were missing someone when we left from the bathroom break to head to the lunchroom so I trotted back to the classroom to see if he was straggling behind. I had found the student, who I will call Devin, where he remained at his desk in the classroom with his head face down into his crossed arms. I went and kneeled by his desk and asked him what was wrong. He just slightly tilted his head, just enough to let a ray of sunlight hit the stream of tears on his cheek.
“Nothing,” he said, “I’m fine.”
“You don’t look fine,” I answered. “Tell me what’s going on.”
He explained how the night before his mother and stepfather had gotten into an altercation which led to the stepfather verbally and physically assaulting Devin and his mother. Devin had multiple bruises to the cheeks and on his arm a large purple handprint-shaped bruise peeked out from under his sleeve.
I was horrified. I had never experienced or witnessed anything like that in my entire life and now that I was staring a young boy in his wet and bruised face I had no idea what to do. I finally convinced him to at least try to eat lunch and that I would do my absolute best to help him. I reported what happened to the teacher and she said they would take further action.
After that experience I was never the same. A new spot was formed in my heart, a spot for all the children that don’t have what they need in their lives in order to grow up to be the happiest and most successful they can possibly be. It also got me wondering, why does this happen? And what are the implications of child abuse on how well a student performs in school?
In my search I found multiple articles that presented research on the harmful effects of child maltreatment on cognitive, behavioral, and academic functioning. Within the three articles, by Crozier et. al, Sheppard, and Boden et. al, the only difference is simply the focus, whether it is a certain age group, race, gender, etc, and the methods used. While Crozier et. al administered several intelligence tests and looked at a racially diverse sample, Sheppard focused on math and reading percentiles and number of days absent across abused and nonabused children, and Boden et. al focused on the latent effects of child maltreatment with a sample of physical and sexual abuse victims in their twenties and how likely they are to achieve a college or professional degree. However, all articles presented conclude the same findings: child maltreatment negatively impacts all areas of development, ultimately degrading the overall development of the child in every aspect.
Children are the future, and without making sure children have a safe and consistent environment to not only learn, but also prosper and grow, we are hindering our ability to obtain a successful and righteous future society for generations to come.
Boden, Joseph M., L. John Horwood, and David M. Fergusson. “Exposure To Childhood Sexual And Physical Abuse And Subsequent Educational Achievement Outcomes.” Child Abuse & Neglect 31.10 (2007): 1101-1114. PsycINFO. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.
In Boden’s “Exposure to childhood sexual and physical abuse and subsequent educational achievement outcomes” the relationship between CSA (childhood sexual abuse) and CPA (childhood physical abuse) in relation to failing academic achievement was examined. The study followed students in early adulthood, ages 18-21, who had been previously exposed to CSA and/or CPA. Boden et al. found that “increasing exposure to CSA and CPA was significantly associated with failing to achieve secondary school qualifications, gaining a Higher School Certificate, and gaining a university degree” (17).
Crozier, Joseph C., and Richard P. Barth. “Cognitive And Academic Functioning In Maltreated Children.” Children & Schools 27.4 (2005): 197-206. ERIC. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.
Crozier’s article, “Cognitive and Academic Functioning in Maltreated Children,” focuses on school-aged children, 6-15 years old, taken from a sample from the “National Survey of Child and Adolescent WellBeing (NSCAW), a nationally representative sample of children who have been reported to child welfare services because of alleged maltreatment” (2) that included all types of maltreatment, was racially diverse, and included both genders.
In comparison to nationwide averages for all of the tests performed, the children in the NSCAW sample were “more likely than normative samples to score a standard deviation or more below the mean on standardized measures of cognitive functioning and academic achievement” (12). Crozier et al. also concluded that “neither gender nor any age group shields children from the effect of maltreatment on cognitive and academic functioning” (12).
Sheppard, William N. “An ecological approach to understanding physical child abuse and the impact on academics: Differences between behaviors in physically abused and nonabused children regarding parental disciplinary practices, family interaction and family events and their effects on social interaction and school success.” Dissertation Abstracts International Section A 73. (2012). PsycINFO. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.
In Sheppard’s “An ecological approach to understanding physical child abuse and the impact on academics,” the focus is on the effects of child abuse through a study of abused and nonabused students that examined their testing percentiles in math, reading, and number of days absent.
The study found that while “physically abused children were found to have lower reading percentiles, math percentiles, and higher absentee rates than nonabused children” (13), only the absentee rates were proved significantly different, however, “more factors were found to be correlated to nonabused children’s reading percentiles, math percentiles, and absentee rates than those of physically abused children” (16).