AT RISK: A new study released by the UCT’s Children’s Institute shows that there are mounting social and economic costs to the country of physical abuse of children. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Monday marks the start of Child Protection Week and a new study released by the University of Cape Town’s Children’s Institute shows that there are mounting social and economic costs to the country of physical abuse of children.

The findings of the recently published "Birth to Twenty Plus" (BT20+) study - which followed more than 2000 children in Soweto, Johannesburg, from birth to 22 years old - indicate that 99% of these children have been exposed to some form of direct or indirect violence over their lifespan.

“Many people believe that we have the right to beat children but do not realise the impact that it has on them.

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"A child can’t distinguish between ‘discipline’ and physical punishment that hurts and causes pain.

"Physical punishment also affects how the child develops, it affects their cognitive development and leads to aggression.

"Physical punishment causes fear rather than discipline,” said Professor Shanaaz Mathews, director of the Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town, and co-investigator on the BT20+ study.

The social abuse and physical abuse cost the South African economy billions of rand. In their study called "Violence Unwrapped: The Social and Economic Burden of Violence Against Children in South Africa", Save the Children calculated the economic burden of violence against children in South Africa.

The study estimates that physical violence against children alone cost South Africa R103.8 billion in 2015 or 2.6% of its gross domestic product.

“Violence against children is the ultimate abuse of power. Adults should use their power to influence change of behaviour in a positive manner.

"Their power should be used to protect children and not to harm them,” Save the Children South Africa’s CEO, Gugu Ndebele, said.

Ndebele said her organisation was calling for the strengthening of child protection through the empowerment of educators, Early Childhood Development practitioners and children.

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