Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

15892 Protective Role of School Life for School-Aged Children In Korea

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 11:45 AM
Franklin Square (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Eun Hee Jung, MA, Doctoral Student, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea
Hyemee Kim, MSW, Ph.D. Candidate, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea
Background and Purpose: Child abuse and neglect has long been a global issue. Korea is no exception to this problem as many children are reportedly being physically, emotionally, and verbally abused and neglected by their caretakers. The number of reported cases is also on the rise with more than 7,000 child abuse cases have been reported as of 2008 which is double the number from 2004 (Ministry of Health and Welfare, 2008). Previous studies have revealed that children exposed to such horrific experiences are more likely to engage in behavioral problems such as aggressive and delinquent behavior. However, studies have also revealed individual variations: Not all children exposed to abuse suffer from adverse outcomes. This study thus is an attempt to examine the variations by using the resilience theory as a guiding framework. More specifically, this study examines how children's social life, namely peer relations and school life function as protective factors and explores the relationships among children's experience of abuse, peer relations, school life, and their behavioral problems.

Methods: This study uses 2006 Korean Welfare Panel Data for Children for its analysis. It is a nationally representative data collected every three years on children between the ages of 10 to 12 years, containing information on children's socio-demographic, health and mental health, school and family life, and behavioral problems. A total of 553 cases were included in this study. A recursive structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to test the hypothesized model and examine the pathways.

Results: The model fit of the final path model was considered adequate given that the model yielded RMSEA of .052, IFI and CFI values of .910 with chi-square value of 303.793(df=101, p<.05, CMIN=3.008). The findings show that the experiences of child abuse had direct effect (b=.559) and indirect (b=.115) effect on children's behavioral problems. School life also affected their behaviors (b=-.362) that those who better adjusted to school life were less likely to engage in behavioral problems. Among the control variables, only gender was significantly associated with children's behavioral problems (b=-.081). Mediation test also revealed that school adjustment partially mediated the relationship and bootstrap test confirmed its significance (p<.01). Peer relations were not significantly associated with child abuse and behavioral problems.

Implications: Experiences of child abuse often have life-long consequences for the victims. However, some children survive the experience with no particular psychological or behavioral problems. Resiliency theory provides an explanation for this variation that despite risk factors and horrific experiences, children may grow up to be well-functioning individuals. The findings of this study provide an additional empirical evidence for the theory that despite the experiences, if children are provided with caring and nurturing school environment, the likelihood of engaging in behavioral problems significantly reduces. Additionally, the finding that school life for abused children is a significant protective factor provides an important clinical implication that those working with abused children need to assess how children are faring in school and develop intervention plans to strengthen their school life.

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