This study is the first in Aden to explore the issues related to pupils' reports of emotional abuse in the school context. This study was conducted to describe the prevalence of emotional abuse by teachers and administration staff in schools. In addition, it provides empirical evidence on how pupils and parents socio-demographic characteristics were associated with pupils' victimization by school staff in Aden governorate.
It is often assumed that the consequences of emotional abuse are not as severe as those of more obvious forms of abuse [24
], but in fact, relatively little is known about the magnitude of the problem of child emotional abuse worldwide. The prevalence of emotional abuse in the current study was 55.2%; it was relatively lower than that found in Iran 59.9% [17
], but higher than that reported in Cyprus 33.1% [15
] and Taiwan 11.6% [23
]. Prevalence rates of emotional abuse are difficult to ascertain because they capture a wide range of teaching behaviors, and there is little, or no consensus across studies as to what phenomena should be included. The observed differences between countries could be examined from several perspectives. First, it might be that the overall teacher behavior in the various countries is genuinely different, and emotional abuse of pupils was frequently noted as a means of controlling the classroom [25
]. Second, emotional abuse might be conceptualized differently in these countries, and what “falls outside the range of acceptability” is variously defined [26
]. Third, the methodology used, the study population, and the timing frame are not the same for all studies. Finally, cultural context could differently influence the perception of the abuse acts, where a lot of acts might be culturally accepted ways of disciplining pupils and are therefore not perceived to be abuse acts by a teacher or school administrators [11
In our study, the relatively high frequency of teachers' emotionally abusive behavior could be explained by different social, cultural, and organization factors. For example, some abusive behaviors might be culturally acceptable, such as "shouting and calling names". On the other hand, teachers might not be fully aware about child rights in addition to lack of comprehensive disciplinary rules concerning the appropriate management of pupils.
The current study indicates that males had significantly higher odds of experiencing emotional abuse than females, which is consistence with previous studies [15
]. This could be interpreted by the fact that boys are more likely to have a conflicting relationship with their teachers than their female counterparts [29
]. Interestingly, inattention seemed to provoke the teacher's scorn, especially for boys but not for girls. One possible explanation may be that, in girls, a lack of attention may be considered a temporary lapse and thus, be more readily excused or ignored than in boys. In line with this notion, low-achieving boys have been shown to have been treated more negatively by teachers than their female counterparts [4
]. On the other hand, it has been noticed that male pupils are more involved in disruptive behaviors in the classroom, such as noise, shouting, fighting and throwing up, to get attention compared to girls. This may prompt teachers to emotionally abuse boys more than girls. Moreover, it was concluded that, compliance, following rules and being neat and orderly, is valued and reinforced in many classrooms. In addition, they stressed that these are behaviors, which are typically associated with girls rather than boys, and this may account for the reason why boys experience emotional abuse more often than girls from their teachers [31
]. Furthermore, it was reported that poor academic performance of male pupils might explain the higher prevalence of emotional abuse among boys. They found that low achieving boys have been more emotionally abused by both male and female teachers compared to girls [29
]. Accordingly, we can conclude that gender is a strong predictor of emotional abuse.
With respect to pupils' age group, the findings indicated that the risk of emotional abuse in schools increase when pupils grow up. This result is consistent to what was found in Iran [17
]. Pupils aged 16–17 years are typically those who have failed school years and are thus prone to experience emotional abuse, being threatened with school expulsion [17
]. Another explanation is that teachers of older pupils use scolding and grades deduction more [25
]. Insulting pupils in our study was 28.4% very much lower than what was reported in an earlier study from Yemen where 42.3% of the pupils aged 6–15 years old claimed that they were insulted at school when they make a mistake [20
Emotional abuse is prevalent in 7th
, 8th, and 9th
grades; however, there was no statistical significant association with school grade, though findings show relatively higher odds among 8th
graders. This could be explained by the increasing conflict situations between teachers and the 8th
grade pupils because of their higher claims for autonomy. Furthermore, it is well known that early adolescence is often a time of increased emotional sensitivity, and even relatively benign comments by teachers can at times be interpreted by adolescent pupils as offending [26
]. Further studies are required to examine more closely the characteristics of abusive teachers' behaviors in relation to the pupils' school grade and age groups.
For the assessment of the prevalence of emotional abuse, it is also important to analyze how the family structure and parent's socio-demographic characteristics may be related to pupil's abuse in schools. In our study, we examined the relationship between the prevalence of emotional abuse in a school and the educational level, family type, and marital status of the pupil's parents.
The study findings showed that pupils living in extended families have higher odd of reporting being emotionally abused at school. This could be interpreted according to the social learning theory, where pupils from extended families live in crowded homes and witness family violence. In addition, children remain outdoors long hours observing and imitating aggressive behaviors that affects their relationship with teachers and make them at higher risks of emotional abuse [32
The study findings revealed that pupils whose parents have low education level, exhibited higher odds of emotional abuse but was not statistically significant.
Parents with low education level may be less able to avail themselves of resources for coping with family problems, avoiding abusive relationships, and for that, they solve their problems aggressively [33
]. Children of those families usually witness violence at home, which negatively influence their behavior at school and make them at higher risks of abuse. The findings of our study indicate that the higher education level of fathers play a protective role against child abuse at school.