BECAN is a collaborating FP7 Project, the main activity of which is an epidemiological study of child abuse and neglect (CAN) in the general population of 11 to 16 year-old children that attend or have dropped-out of school and additionally a case-based surveillance of reported/detected CAN cases in 9 Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, FYRoM, Greece, Romania, Serbia and Turkey). Given that currently there is no information on the prevalence of CAN in the general population of children in Balkan countries, and this study is certainly the largest in sample size ever to be conducted in the Balkan area, it is expected that BECAN will provide the basis for the harmonization of CAN screening procedures in the Balkan area, and offer valuable tools to relevant policy-making activities in all participating Balkan countries.
Child abuse and neglect (CAN) including physical, sexual, and psychological abuse as well as neglect has been widely recognized as a major public health and social issue of all contemporary societies. This recognition is reflected in a number of important documents released during the previous decades by various international organizations (i.e. W.H.O., U.N., U.N.I.C.E.F., CoE etc) regarding mapping, preventing and treating cases of CAN.
However, the actual incidence and prevalence of CAN remains still an under-researched field for a good portion of EU Member States, while in some cases, even the overall number of reported cases is also unknown due to the inexistence of national referral and surveillance mechanisms. Moreover, deficits at national level have further been complicated with inconsistencies in between national respectful legal framework, operational and legislative schemes and professional and cultural traditions on the subject matter. At the moment, there are no available CAN prevalence data in the Balkans on representative samples of general children’s populations.
BECAN is an epidemiological study that aims at mapping CAN in the 11 to 16-year-old children’s general population including those that attend and those that have dropped-out of school as well as at identifying the respectful number of reported or detected cases of CAN being recorded in 9 Balkan countries.
Mapping of CAN is achieved by applying two of the ICAST questionnaires (namely, ICAST-CH for children and ICAST-P for parents, created by ISPCAN with the support of UNICEF and the Oak Foundation) to matched pairs of children and parents. At first ICAST questionnaires were translated into the official languages of participating countries and culturally validated (available at http://www.becan.eu/node/25). In addition, standardized protocols and procedures were formulated in order to extract data of reported or detected cases of CAN from pre-existing resources.
In turn, the aforementioned tools are applied on one hand in representative samples of the children’s general population and in a respectful sample of children that have dropped out of school and on the other in the corresponding local agencies or organizations concerning records of the identical time period. In this way, a set of data for each participant country was created concerning the estimated incidence and prevalence of CAN according to field research and the prevalence of CAN according to official records.
Thus, a calculation of the gap between reported CAN cases and its tacit counterpart is going to be executed along with international comparisons throughout the Balkan countries and given the identity of the tools used, commensurability of results is anticipated to be of the highest possible level.
This epidemiological study is the largest in sample size ever to be conducted in the area and probably one of the biggest field surveys globally (target sample to be addressed was 63.250 children and their parents; overall sample was eventually 42.194 children with participation/response rate of 66,71%). Moreover, BECAN case-based surveillance study is the first systematic effort to collect comprehensive and comparable information on reported and/or detected CAN cases in a uniform manner among agencies within and among Balkan countries.
Exposure rates for psychological violence were found between 64,58% (F.Y.R.o.M.) and 83,16% (Greece) for prevalence and 59,62% (Serbia) and 70,02% (Greece) for incidence. For physical violence figures varied between 50,60% (F.Y.R.o.M.) and 76,37% (Greece) for prevalence and 42,51% (F.Y.R.?.M.) and 50,99% (Bosnia) for incidence. Sexual violence figures were higher for prevalence in Bosnia for overall (18,63%) and contact (9,75%) and lower in F.Y.R.?.M. for overall (7,60%) and Romania (3,56%) for contact sexual adverse experiences.
Incidence respectful rates were lower in Romania for overall (5%) and contact (2,09%) sexual victimization and higher in Bosnia for both (13,61% and 7,65% respectfully). Subjective feelings of neglect showed higher rates of prevalence and incidence in Bosnia (48,04% and 20,25%) and lower in Romania (22,60% and 16,67%). Experiences of positive parental practices in general were reported by most responding children in all countries. Gender distribution varied with similar rates males and females in physical and psychological violence.
Regarding sexual violence more diversity appears, with male rates even exceeding female ones’ in some countries. Subjective feelings of neglect showed a predominance of female responders’ rates. More detailed results include
BECAN Study Tables and Figures is available here (PDF version, 368KB)