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AlMuneef and AlTamimi: The impact of child maltreatment on school performance in Saudi Arabia

Introduction: Child maltreatment was proven to negatively impact the academic performance of children and adolescents; reduced academic achievements, problems completing homework assignments and was marginally associated with being frequently absent from school.

Objectives: To identify the impact of child maltreatment on school performance among adolescents in National Guard schools.

Materials and methods: The study was conducted at National Guard schools in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Students aged 12–19 years were invited to participate. A total of 674 participants completed the survey instrument, which included demographics, exposure to different types of abuse and overall level of academic performance.

Results: Participant mean age was 15.6 ± 1.6 years, of which 53% were male. Ninety five per cent lived with both parents, 2% with a single parent and 3% with step parents. Four per cent lived with alcoholic parents or guardians, and 7% had lived with a family member who had been arrested or imprisoned. Poor performance (failure in exam) was more likely among the students who: lived with alcoholics versus non alcoholics (33% vs. 11%, P < 0.01), lived with a family member that had been imprisoned versus non-imprisoned (26% vs. 11%, P < 0.01), were psychologically abused versus not abused (21% vs. 10%, P < 0.01), were physically abused versus not abused (19% vs. 9%, P < 0.01). Predisposing factors to poor performance in school included living with alcoholic parents or guardians [odd ratio (OR) = 2.8, confidence interval (CI) = 1.1 to 6.7], psychological abuse (OR = 1.7, CI = 1.0 to 3.0) and physical abuse (OR = 1.7, CI = 1.0 to 2.8).

Conclusions: Increase the awareness of the impact of child maltreatment on school performance among families, schools and the community. Recommend to the Ministry of Education to consider counselling of students with poor performance due to adverse child experiences and maltreatment.

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