Topic 3 Children Victims of Abuse, Maltreatment and Poverty / Children Deprived of their Basic Rights

Children who are particularly vulnerable and may have an even broader spectrum of needs and involvement in the educational process, are the children who are victims of maltreatment*. Education can act as a protective factor for these children. Some facts:

  • Studies show that children who have suffered from neglect, exhibit lower academic achievement than children who were physically abused.
  • Mistreated children have a greater instance of exhibiting poor social skills and classroom behavior problems.
  • Maltreatment in the first five years of life nearly triples a child’s likelihood of having academic problems (school drop outs before completing high school).
  • Child maltreatment has also been linked to lower cognitive functioning (specifically lower IQ scores in comparison to the control group) and frequent occurrence of problematic behaviors in children and adolescents.

*maltreatment here is being used as an ‘umbrella’ term which contains all forms of abuse, violence and neglect, victims of poverty, and children in any way deprived of their basic rights.

Characteristics that can be seen as risk factors for maltreated children for dropping out:

a) Children that are under four years of age or adolescents, b) unwanted children and children unable to meet their parents’ expectations, c) children with special needs, intellectual disabilities or neurological disorders, d) children identified as LGBTQ

a) difficulty bonding with a newborn, b) not nurturing the child, c) having been maltreated themselves as children, d) lacking awareness of child development or having unrealistic expectations, e) misusing alcohol or drugs, including during pregnancy, e) having low self-esteem, f) suffering from poor impulse control, g) having a mental or neurological disorder, h) being involved in criminal activity, i) experiencing financial


  • Teachers and school counselors are underprepared to recognize signs of child maltreatment.
  • There is a gap in the reporting procedures
  • Training for school counselors and teachers is important. Well prepared educators in the schools can be of great help to maltreated children and their families.
  • Essential for schools to have clear reporting policies regarding cases of child maltreatment. Schools should generate clear guidelines regarding the reporting of cases of maltreatment and they should be made available to responsible personnel.
  • In any case, when handling cases of maltreatment of any kind, it is important for teachers and counselors (as individuals to whom students can refer to), to never forget that children are never to blame for maltreatment!
  • Poverty is rising, with more children now facing severe poverty*
  • Experiencing poverty for even a few years can have a significant negative impact on young children’s development, particularly the under-fives, as these early stages of a child’s life are a critical period for cognitive, language and social development. Childhood neglect, childhood family poverty, and childhood neighborhood poverty each contribute to poor outcomes later in life.
  • Educational inequalities, which start in the pre-school years, typically continue to grow through primary and secondary schooling. If a child does not enter ‘school ready’ with basic skills, their ability to make the most of learning experiences, develop social skills and establish friendships is reduced. In the longer term, falling behind in the early years disadvantages the rest of a child’s school career, employment opportunities and adult life chances (Save the Children, 2016).
  • Living in poverty can put children at significant risk of experiencing a delay in their language development. This can have major consequences for the development of early reading skills. Being able to read well is vital for a child’s prospects at school and in life in general.
  • Lastly, it is often that children in poverty are forced into child labour (an explicit form of child exploitation) or even forced to steal in order to survive.
  • Ιnclusive education should come also in ways that can engage children in poverty in the educational process, thus acting as a preventive measure of dropout as well as help children fulfill their potential.

*Statistics show that in 2017, over 1.5 million people were destitute specifically in the UK, including more than a third of a million children (JRF, 2020), and 7.8% of the population were in persistent poverty. Rising living costs, low wages and inadequate social security benefits are resulting in increasing numbers of families living on the cusp of the poverty line (Children’s Society, 2020a). CPAG (2019) expect 5.2 million children to be living in poverty in the UK by 2022. The current coronavirus crisis could push disadvantaged families into poverty if parents face job losses and falls in earnings as a result of the pandemic (Children’s Society, 2020b). A similar trend can be shown in the entire EU. In 2020, 24.2 % of children (aged less than 18 years) in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion compared with 21.7 % of working-age adults (aged 18-64 years) and 20.4 % of older people (aged 65 years and over). Children were the age group with the highest at risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rates in 13 out of the 27 EU Member States.

Activity 3: “Could you be in my (worn) shoes?”