|Year : 2001 | Volume
| Issue : 10 | Page : 543-548
Street boys of Delhi: A study of their family and demographic characteristics
Department of Community Medicine, Moulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi., India
B-3/60-B, MIG Flats, Lawrence Road, Keshav Puram, Delhi-110 035
|How to cite this article:|
Agnihotri P. Street boys of Delhi: A study of their family and demographic characteristics. Indian J Med Sci 2001;55:543-8
Most of the major cities in dl - eloping countries are witness to street children, who are seen everywhere, selling petty things or begging. We are so used to seeing them it does not bother us and we take them for granted as part of the urban scenario. In India homeless and street children are estimated to be around 47.22 million (VHAI). Children who are driven by circumstances to make street their home are indeed the most neglected among the entire child population of our country  . Existing social system looks upon these children as delinquents, whereas they need a lot of understanding as the circumstances which drive them to the present situation are almost always beyond their control. Demographic studies pertaining to the variables associated with homelessness and street children are either lacking or rudimentary in many developing countries including India. The 'US Society for Adolescent Medicine' has advocated that rigorous research on the causes of homelessness should be encouraged  . The present study is aimed at identifying the social and epidemiological factors which may be associated with street children.
| ¤ Material and Methods|| |
The study was conducted at a Child Observation Home in Central Delhi. Street boys from all over Delhi are brought here by police. This is an institution for temporary reception of these street boys. They stay here for the period during which inquiry is conducted and decision is taken about their rehabilitation. This is done by the Juvenile Welfare Board of the Home. There is a constant turnover of boys, as the Police bring in new boys everyday and old ones are moved out as per the directions of the Board. i.e. either to a 'Special Home' or restored to the family. This institution is meant only for boys aged 6-16 years. There is a constant turnover of boys, as the Police brings in new boys everyday and old ones are moved out as per the directions of the Board. i.e. either to a 'Special Home' or restored to the family. This institution is meant only for boys aged 6-16 years. Each boy who brought to the Observation Home during the period from 01-05-1997, was enrolled for study.
Children making more than one visit were treated as a single subject and were not subsequently interviewed. Each subject was contacted as soon as possible after being brought in. At least 2-3 contacts were made prior to the interview, to win over his confidence. Once, we were sure of the reliability of the information to be provided by the child, he was subjected to a personal interview for eliciting family and demographic details. The interview was held on one to one basis, in a quiet chamber. The information was recorded on a pre-tested and pre-coded proforma.
The data was transferred to the computer database. Tables were prepared and either x 2 or Fisher's test was applied to compare the different groups.
| ¤ Observations and Discussions|| |
During the study period, 402 street children were brought in. Two of these were repeat visits, hence 400 children were studied. Out of these, 90.5% had run from their homes ('Runaways') and 9.5% were not 'Runaways'. Majority (90%) had been arrested for'Vegrancy', 5% for begging and 4% for petty thefts. One was caught while peddling drugs.
| ¤ Demographic Characteristics|| |
1. Age Distribution [Figure 1]: Mean age was 11.3 ± 1.7 years. This was similar to that reported by others , . The higher proportion in 10-13 years age group (56%) as compared to that in 6-9 years group (23%) is striking, as according to the Census, 1991, percentage is similar in both groups. This may reflect that boys who become street children, do so at around onset of Puberty (10-12 years). The reason may be the decreasing affection and increasing parental expectations from them at this age.
2. Age at Leaving Home: Highest number (31 %) had left home at the age of 10-12 years. These findings are in agreement with those of Panicker  . This is also coherent with the above age distribution. Hence attempts at prevention of run away behaviour must be aimed at an earlier than this.
3. Religion : A higher percentage of Muslims (32%) than the National figure of 12% (Census of India, 1991) was seen. This figure was 47% among street children of Mumbai  and 17.7% in Calcutta  .
4. State/Country : More than 4/5 of the children were from neighboring states of Delhi as also reported by Nangia  and Saini  . A similar study in Mumbai also showed that 86% of the street children were from the neighboring states  .
5. Living Conditions Before Leaving Home: It was observed that more than half of the children used to stay in 'Kutcha' (mud) houses before leaving home and 1.8% were from homeless families. Majority (61%) had no water supply in their homes. Also a large majority (62%) had no private latrines.
6. Education : The majority (53%) were illiterate and 38.5% had dropped out from school during Primary education. It was observed that a majority had left home for the first time (63%) and had spent less than one year on the street (51 %).This is an important finding from the point of their rehabilitation.
| ¤ Family Characteristics|| |
Type of Family : Most belonged to "Nuclear" type of families but a significantly higher proportion of "Run away" boys were from 'Joint' families (22%) as compared to boys who were 'Not Runaways' (5%); x 2 = 14.5, P<0.001. Also noticeable is that a large number of family members (>5) was seen to be associated with runaway behaviour [Table 2] as also reported by Pandey  . This might be due to poverty and overcrowding. A 'Joint' family may also be acting through this mechanism.
However the number of siblings was not found to be associated with runaway behaviour as also observed by Rosa  . Step parent/s was also to be associated with runaway tendency; (16.2% of Runaway Vs None of not Runaway, P<0.013). Similar association has also been reported by Rosa  and Nangia  . Also children under the guardianship of relatives other than the parents seem more likely to runaway [Table 1].
Occupation of Father [Table 2]: Majority of fathers were engaged in lower occupations. In 54% cases, only father earned. In 12.8%, only the mother earned and in the rest, both contributed to the family income.
When mother was working, she too was engaged in low income generating occupation. Proportion of 'only mother working' was significantly higher in the 'Not Run Away group (x 2 =4.5, p<0.05). Perhaps the boys felt the responsibility of supporting their mothers and thereby stayed in the family fold.
Substance use by the Parents [Table 2] : As many as 75% of father used one or more substances. Fathers were using a substance more as compared to mothers.
Physical Abuse in family: The most prominent among the social factors found associated with these street children was the `Physical Abuse' within the family. (45.2%). The actual proportion with such a history may be well above the observed, as these children being accustomed, may under report the less severe forms. Many children showed healed wound marks which they claimed, resulted from such abuse. The biological father was commonest member inflicting physical punishment. (54.7%). Step mothers, as compared to biological mothers seem more likely to be indulging in physical abuse of child (50% Vs 12.7%, x 2 = 26.1, p<0.001). There was no significant difference between the biological can step father regarding beating of the child. Violence at home seems to be an important factor in provoking these children to leave their homes, as the 'Run-Away' group had a higher proportion of boys with positive history of physical abuse (p<0.05). Other studies among street children also have reported almost consistently, a high prevalence of physical abuse within the family. Also in some studies children have cited this as the foremost reason for running away from home  .
| ¤ Conclusion|| |
Majority of the street children were from the neighboring states, from families with higher level of poverty and literacy. They generally run away from dysfunctional families with a tendency or physical punishment to the children. Fortunately the majority were first timers and had not, spent considerable time on the street. This reflects the high potential of their successful rehabilitation.[Table 3]
| ¤ References|| |
|1.||ICCW Projects for street children : ICCW News Bulletin, 1989; 37:23-24. |
|2.||Farrow A, James, RW, Deisher RB. Health & Health needs of Homeless and Runaway J Adoles, Health 1992,13:717-726. |
|3.||Paniker, R. Street children : A growing urban tragedy. ICCW New Bulletin 1989; 37:3-8. |
|4.||Philips WSK. Street children in India. New Delhi Rawat Publications. 1994;94-110. |
|5.||Lima DH. Street children of Bombay. Study conducted for Min. of Wel : GOI & UNICEF 1992; 17-65. |
|6.||A. Ghosh, Street children of Calcutta. Study conducted for Min. of Well : GOI & UNICEF 1992; 16-60. |
|7.||Nangia P. Quality of Life of Street and Working children in Delhi. ICCW News Bulletin 1989;27:9-15. |
|8.||Saini N. Study of Health Profile and Morbidity Pattern of Street and Working Children. M.D. thesis. Unpublished data 1996 pg. 66. |
|9.||Pandey R. The basic needs deprivation. In street children of India. Ist Edn. 1991 : pg 196-7. |
|10.||Rosa CSA. desousa RE, Bobra R. The street child of Recite : a study of their background. J trop Pod, 1992; 38:34-40. |
[Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]
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