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Our battered youth Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by VOICEMASTER, Philippines Jan 10, 2003
Health   Opinions


Our battered youth
Posted:9:10 PM (Manila Time) | October 15, 2001
By Michael L. Tan

A RECENT survey sponsored by Unicef showed that 27 percent of Filipino youth aged 9 to 17 have been victims of robbery, 13 percent of assault, 50 percent of fighting and 25 percent of threats.

Those figures come from a report, “Speaking Out!” released by Unicef a few weeks ago and based on a survey of young people in 17 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The survey in the Philippines was administered to 500 young people.

The violence isn’t just out in the streets: 24 percent of Filipino youth claimed they were beaten by their parents or guardians if they did something wrong.

It’s important that we reflect on these figures, maybe even conduct more research to get a clearer picture of what’s happening and the reasons behind these assaults.

Let’s tackle the issue of child-beating. Other statistics from the Unicef survey help to explain its high incidence.

First, our figure of 24 percent actually comes close to the regional average of 23 percent, which makes me speculate about child-beating’s connection to feudal Asian concepts where parents see themselves as having full control over their children.

Asian parents, many themselves beaten up when they were children, think it is their right, maybe even their obligation, to discipline their children by beating them up.

The incidence of child-beating is outrageously high in Southeast Asian countries, climbing up to more than 40 percent in Myanmar and Cambodia.

In stark contrast, we find that in Australia, the survey found only one percent of young people saying they had been beaten up.

Certainly, it helps that they have strict laws that penalize violence against children but the laws themselves reflect changing cultural values, where young people are no longer seen as chattels of parents but almost as co-equals with adults.

But there’s more to child-beating than feudal parent-child relations. It was striking that child-beating incidence was relatively low in China (14 percent), Singapore (16 percent) and Hong Kong (12 percent).

I would have thought that the strong Confucian traditions in these countries, which dictate that children should be completely subservient to parents, would have led to more child-beating.

The low incidence of child-beating in these East Asian countries suggests that there are other social changes that balance out Confucian authoritarianism.

One possible explanation is that these countries have or had almost draconian family planning programs that have limited the number of children down to one in China and, in earlier years, two in Singapore.

Certainly in China, psychologists have documented the “spoiled dragon syndrome” where an only child is pampered and rarely disciplined.

Add on a bit of practical psychology here: when parents have many children to care for, the risks of violent temper outbursts increase as well.

I’d like to move out of the household and look at the way our youth are exposed to violence. The figures for Filipino youth being robbed and assaulted are much higher than in many other Asian countries, and validates the suspicion many of us have about our deteriorating peace and order situation.

The Unicef survey only tells us that the victims include young people.
What’s surprising is that despite all this exposure to violence, our young people still have a strong sense of security.

Three-fourths of those surveyed said they felt “very safe” in their city or neighborhood during the day, dropping to 33 percent for these feelings of safety during the night. Both day and night figures are higher than regional averages.

My interpretation here is that young Filipinos might actually be “normalizing” the violence around them. Perhaps young people are beginning to equate violence only with war, and fail to recognize its existence at home and in their neighborhood.

Worse, they may not see anything wrong with being beaten up, or being robbed in the streets. With time, they begin to rationalize: “I was bad, so I deserve to be beaten up” or “I was careless, so I got robbed.”

Perhaps our young people are learning, all too early, that they have to adjust to the realities of an adult world, one where people assault, steal and murder, and where the weaker (including the young) are considered fair game.

When the young turn violent, we should be asking who they’re imitating.



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