Marital Dysfunction As A Vector Of Sexual Abuse In Uyo Local Government Area Of Akwa Ibom State

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  • Background of the Study:

There has been a growing increase in child abuse, especially sexual abuse and its attendant teenage pregnancy, [UNICEF 1995] . Child abuse can be seen as harm to, or neglect of a child by another person, such a harm or abuse may be cause by parents, teachers, peers or any other significant person[s] in the child’s life, [Eya, 2002] . According to Hopper, [2004] , child abuse can be physical, psychological or sexual. Sexual abuse according to Dutton [1994] is any unwanted sexual intimacy forced on an individual by another. This includes oral or vaginal stimulation or penetration forced nudity, forced exposure to sexually explicit material or activity or any unwanted activity. This is usually done or achieved through force or coercion and may result in teenage pregnancy in some cases.

Teenagers are children between the ages of 13-19. (lsangedighi, 1996, ogbebor, 1994) The consequences of sexual abuse and its attendant teen pregnant are drastic and have an adverse effect on the teen mothers, their babies and the society at large. The teen mothers as “babies making babies” experience unwanted, emotional, harmful traumatic sexual experiences, as well as pregnancy experiences in childhood and also the problem of raising their babies alone, (Eya, 2002). Wolpe (2004) opined that sexual abuse and exposure to events that are so extreme, severe and threatening can cause traumatic stress in children and adolescents and at the same time cause considerable interpersonal and academic / occupational problems. On the other hand, babies of teen mothers as a result of poverty. Ignorance and secrecy usually have lower birth weight. (Dutton 1994). They also are prone to mare childhood illness, more infant mortality, poorer medial care and suffer more delayed development. Sexual abuse, according to UNICEF, (1997), is wide spread, and occurs in different countries of the world. It has not only constituted a social problem, but in addition led the pregnant teenagers through the slippery  terrain  of  abortion,  abandonment  and  dumping  their

new born babies in gutters out of frustration, shame and guilt and there by resulting in increase in death rate and infant mortality. Many factors contribute to sexual abuse such as poverty, marital dysfunction, rape, curiosity, child labor and human trafficking, (Hopper 2004). Research has shown that marital dysfunction is a major contributory factor of sexual abuse (Eya, 2002). A dysfunctional family is a family in conflicts, Justin (2004) quoting Scanoz (1965), saw marital conflict as “ dissension between marital partners over values, beliefs, goals, norms and behavior which make up the structure of the nuclear unit”. The conflict could be in the area of decision making, child rearing pattern, finance, religion and power control. Many teenage mothers are from either broken homes or homes with marital conflict. Justin (2004).  This research is carried out to investigate the relationship between marital dysfunction and sexual abuse.


1.2      Statement of Problem

History of sexual abuse is unfortunately very common. It is estimated that one in three women and one in seven men have been sexually abused as children. (UNICEF and FOS, 1996). The resultant feeling is that of violation, mistrust, lack of control, and ability to function in healthy relationship. Past sexual abuse generally results in difficulties in functioning sexually in a healthy way. Sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy are highly prevalent in Nigeria today. The problem according to Hopper (2004) is that most sexually abused girls do not really report to the counsellor, teachers, or even their parents because of secrecy, intense feeling of shame and the bid to protect their self-esteem and personality. However, sexual abuse can show in signs such as difficulty in walking or sitting, stained or bloody under wear, genital or rectal pain, itching, discharge and bruises, (Triandis, 1983).

Pregnancy can also show in signs such as weakness, morning sickness nausea, vomiting and protruding stomach. The sexual assault survivor services (1996) report in America shows estimated 1/5 to 1/3 of all teenagers who are involved in dating relationship as regularly abusing and, or being abused by their

partners verbally, emotionally, sexually or physical. Studies by Mckay (1994) in America also indicated that children from homes where domestic violence occurs are physically or sexually abused and seriously neglected at a rate 15 times the national average. Regier and Cowdry (1995) also claimed that state agency reported approximately 128,000 confirmed cases of child sexual abuse in 1992 and that has been estimated that about 1 in every 5 female children may experience sexual molestation.

Childs sexual abuse is evil an may have a serious painful and damaging psychological impact on the life of a growing child and adolescent and consequently mar the child‘s future. Effects have been made at both international and national level by countries and government to address the issue of child sexual abuse.

In  Nigeria  for  example, a  one time wife of the vice president, has  been carrying  out  wide spread  campaign against  child  labor and human trafficking. She  has  organized several  workshop,  seminars and paid   for

advertorials on the ills  of our young girls being smuggled overseas as commercial sexual workers.

It is then pertinent at this juncture to note that despite all these effort, the problem still persist, this research therefore seeks to determine whether marital dysfunction has any relationship with sexual abuse and to proffer counseling strategies for managing them.


1.3      Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to investigate marital dysfunction and its relationship with sexual abuse  and to proffer counseling strategies for managing them. The specific objectives for this study are:-

§  To determine if marital dysfunction contributes to sexual abuse.

  • To determine if marital dysfunction influence teenage pregnancy.


  • Research Questions

The following questions are raised to guide the study,


  • To what extent does marital dysfunction contribute to sexual abuse?
  • How does marital dysfunction influence teenage pregnancy?


  • Research Hypothesis

The following research hypotheses are raised to guide the study.

  • There is no significant relationship between marital condition of parents and proneness to sexual abuse.
  • There is no significant relationship between marital condition of parents and teenage pregnancy.
    • Significance of the Study

This study will be significant to several people and in several ways. Firstly, it is hoped that study will be of great relevance to the Government both at state level and in Federal level in providing data that will help the Government in developing programmmes or carrying out campaigns on the issues of child sexual abuse, and smuggling of young girls to overseas as commercial sex workers.

Secondly, it will be of great use to religious bodies, socio-cultural organizations and other agencies that are interested in promoting moral discipline among parents that have marital conflict which leads to marital dysfunction.

Thirdly, the findings of this study will help parents to know that marital conflict leads to dysfunction family and children from dysfunctional families can be exposed to child sexual abuse.

Finally, this study will provide data to the counselors to help prevent sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy among adolescent.


  • Delimitation of Study

The study is delimited to the defined target population which involves sexually abused and non sexually abuse students in senior secondary two and three students from five (5) secondary schools will be randomly selected in uyo L. G .A. This will be use for the study.


  • Assumption of the Study

The following assumptions underline this study,

  • It is assumed that marital dysfunction is not evenly distributed among people but rather vary from individual to individual.
  • It is assumed that marital dysfunction contribute to sexual abuse.
  • It is assumed that marital dysfunction influences teenage pregnancy.


The following terms used in the study are defined as follows,

  • Marital dysfunction: This is dispenses between marital partners over values belief, goal, norms and behavior which make up the structure of the nuclear unit (Justin, 2004) quoting (Sconz 1995).
  • Vector: To carry or a carrier.
  • Child sexual abuse: this is any unwanted sexual intimacy forced on an individual by another. This includes oral, anal, or vaginal stimulation or penetration, forced nudity, forced exposure to sexual explicit material or activity or any other unwanted sexual activity (Dutton; 1994).
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