School performance in children exposed to neglect, abuse or maltreatment and in orphans: A rapid systematic review
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School performance in children exposed to neglect, abuse or maltreatment, and orphaned children We conducted a review of school performance in children who had been exposed to abuse, maltreatment or neglect. After searching for relevant studies up to 15 August 2016, we included 14 studies that enrolled 267,805 children and adolescents. We also searched for studies on school performance in orphaned children, and included 29 potentially relevant studies. We did not analyse these further, but assembled them in a separate list. Why is this important? Children who experience lack of adequate care, abuse or neglect are at increased risk of psychological, social, and behavioral impairment. Whereas orphans may struggle to attend school for practical reasons (such as lack of funds, having to work or care for younger siblings); both orphans and children who experience other types of inadequate care may have experienced or be experiencing traumatic events that affect their abilities to learn. We wanted to answer the following questions: 1) How does child neglect and child abuse affect children’s learning outcomes? 2) How does being an orphan affect children’s learning outcomes? Research findings Question 1): Abuse/maltreatment/neglect Poor school performance We found that the risk of poor school performance was higher among children exposed to abuse or neglect than among unexposed children. Poor school performance occurred more than twice as frequently among children exposed to sexual abuse than among unexposed children (low quality evidence). School performance Children exposed to abuse or neglect had poorer school performance than unexposed children. We found a large difference in school performance between children exposed to neglect and unexposed children, where unexposed children did better in school than abused/neglected children (moderate quality evidence). Question 2): Orphans We found 29 potentially relevant studies concerning school performance in orphans, but did not analyse these further. 5 Authors' conclusions The research evidence suggests that children who have been exposed to abuse, maltreatment or neglect in childhood perform worse in school than unexposed children. The studies we found vary in methodological quality, and better quality research is needed to confirm these findings. The scientific literature regarding school performance in orphans is yet to be explored, although the number of potentially relevant studies identified in our search suggests that a systematic review of these studies might prove useful.