Twenty-four percent surveyed parents feel there is an increase in instances of scolding or punishment to children since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, which is reportedly maximum in Delhi and minimum in Madhya Pradesh, says a new study.
According to a Rapid Need Assessment carried out by 'Save the Children-Bal Raksha Bharat' to understand the cascading effects of the pandemic on the lives of children belonging to the most marginalised section, around one-fourth parents (24 per cent) feel there are increased instances of scolding children post March, 2020.
The study focused on key areas like health, nutrition, poverty, inclusion, education and child protection.
A total of 4,052 respondents, including 2,743 adults and 1,309 adolescents, spread across 24 districts in six states -- Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Assam -- were interviewed for the study.
"Among the surveyed parents, the maximum (46 per cent) number of parents in Delhi felt increased instances of scolding or punishment to children since the pandemic outbreak. The parents' perceptions on probable risks to children during Covid indicate that 'Parents' absence from home during Covid/lockdown due to any reason' to be most risky (77 per cent) and ‘Girl child taking up more household chores during Covid/lockdown’ to be least risky (56 per cent). The most sensitised proportion of caregivers belonged to Maharashtra and least from Assam," the report said.
The findings related to the mental health of children in the last 18 months (June 2020 to December 2021) reveal that most of the children (39 per cent) were worried about death, illness, separation of a loved one, or fear of disease.
Feelings of loneliness (27 per cent) and disturbed sleep (26 per cent) was also reported, and being in physical fights was also reported by one-fifth of children (20 per cent).
"State wise, feelings of loneliness (59 per cent) and worries about death, illness, separation, or disease (83 per cent) was maximum in Karnataka, whereas disturbed sleep patterns was majorly reported in Delhi (51 per cent) and physical fighting was maximum in Jharkhand (42 per cent)," it said.
About 44 per cent of children reported that they could not share their sorrow/anger/stress-related feelings with anyone, and three out of four children could not share serious concerns like domestic/spousal violence with anyone.
In an indirect inquiry on child abuse, parents observed changes in their children’s behaviour in terms of 'abnormal interest about sex or genitals’ (12 per cent), ‘fear of being left alone with a given person (27 per cent), ‘sudden emotional or behavioural change’ (27 per cent), ‘abandonment of previous play habits’ (29 per cent), ‘genital/anal injuries’ (15 per cent) and ‘interest in age-inappropriate content online’ (25 per cent), the report said.
A little less than one-third (29 per cent) adolescent girls could not access any kind of adolescent, reproductive and sexual health (ARSH) related information during the pandemic, with Karnataka (92 per cent) being most impacted and Jharkhand (1 per cent) along with Delhi (1 per cent) being least impacted.
About 5 per cent of adolescent girls and women could not access sanitary napkins in times of need (June 2020 to December 2021) by any means, with highest being 15 per cent in Madhya Pradesh.
"Overall, around 88 per cent households (highest in Madhya Pradesh-100 per cent and least in Delhi-69 per cent) faced one or other kind of problem(s) to get sanitary napkins. Of those who faced problems, the top three challenges were inability to visit shop (33 per cent), non-availability of product in shop (32%) and lack of enough money to buy product (30 per cent)," the report added.