The nature and extent of physical abuse in Saudi Arabia homes and schools

  • Aref Alsehaimi

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis presents the first detailed investigation to be carried out on the nature, extent, and effects of child physical abuse by parents and teachers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Child abuse in KSA, in general, received little or no attention by academics or other specialists until the early 1990s and it is only over the past decade or so that the scale and severity of the problem has been recognised. This research focuses on abuse by the two groups of adults who have most access to children and adolescents and who, traditionally in KSA, have dispensed physical discipline on a routine basis.

    A mixed methods approach was adopted in order to assess the prevalence of child physical abuse, the attitudes of present-day parents and teachers toward this form of abuse and the wider issue of physical punishment, and the longer-term psychological and behavioural effects it may have. A detailed questionnaire was administered to 768 high-school students, male and female, aged 12 to 18, in two cities, which, for the purposes of this research, will be referred to as city A and city B, and which differ significantly in their demographics and social and cultural character. In addition, twenty parents and twenty teachers of students attending the same schools were interviewed to provide data to triangulate with those collected from the students. Quantitative data from the questionnaire was analysed using SPSS and a variety of statistical methods, including weighted means, chi-square analysis, and correlation and regression. Qualitative data from the interviews was analysed using Nvivo and interpretative thematic analysis.

    The study found that 37% of adolescents questioned had been the subject of some form of physical violence by parents and 40% had experienced violent behaviour by teachers. Note, however, that the latter figure could result from a relatively small percentage of teachers who regularly apply physical disciplining. Just over half of the parents and a large majority of the teachers interviewed said they never used physical punishment and considered its effects to be harmful. A significant minority of parents and a small minority of teachers, however, were in favour of such punishment and believed it to be effective as a means of correcting behaviour. In their responses to the questionnaire, students frequently referred to negative psychological, emotional, and impacts due to experiences of violent behaviour by parents and teachers. A significant conclusion of the current study, therefore, is that a difference exists between what some adults who use violent behaviours against children believe the effects to be and what the effects actually are as reported by young people who experience those behaviours. Another important conclusion is that a small but significant number of adolescents experience physical abuse by their parents, including punching, whipping, and burning, which has the potential to put their health and safety at serious risk.

    Regarding implications for practice, there is a need for the KSA government to clarify for parents and teachers what is, and what is not abuse, and to provide information on the dangers of violent behaviours against children. The current study also highlights the need for greater protection to be provided for children at risk of abuse. The researcher recommends that future studies include other major population centres and regions of KSA and other types of abuse, such as sexual and emotional, and that interviews be conducted with adolescents to explore further the nature and effects of any physical abuse to which they have been subjected.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsKingdom of Saudi Arabia
    SupervisorAnn Hodson (Supervisor) & Ian Barron (Supervisor)

    Cite this