Research Article: Peer violence perpetration and victimization: Prevalence, associated factors and pathways among 1752 sixth grade boys and girls in schools in Pakistan

Date Published: August 17, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Rozina Karmaliani, Judith Mcfarlane, Rozina Somani, Hussain Maqbool Ahmed Khuwaja, Shireen Shehzad Bhamani, Tazeen Saeed Ali, Saleema Gulzar, Yasmeen Somani, Esnat D. Chirwa, Rachel Jewkes, Andrew R. Dalby.


Child peer violence is a global problem and seriously impacts health and education. There are few research studies available in Pakistan, or South Asia. We describe the prevalence of peer violence, associations, and pathways between socio-economic status, school performance, gender attitudes and violence at home.

1752 children were recruited into a cluster randomized controlled trial conducted on 40 fairly homogeneous public schools (20 for girls and 20 for boys), in Hyderabad, Pakistan. This was ranging from 20–65 children per school. All children were interviewed with questionnaires at baseline.

Few children had no experience of peer violence in the previous 4 weeks (21.7% of girls vs.7% of boys). Some were victims (28.6%, of girls vs. 17.9% of boys), some only perpetrated (3.3% of girls vs. 2.5%) but mostly they perpetrated and were victims (46.4%.of girls vs 72.6%. of boys). The girls’ multivariable models showed that missing the last school day due to work, witnessing her father fight a man in the last month and having more patriarchal gender attitudes were associated with both experiencing violence and perpetration, while, hunger was associated with perpetration only. For boys, missing two or more days of school in the last month, poorer school performance and more patriarchal attitudes were associated with both victimization and perpetration. Witnessing father fight, was associated with peer violence perpetration for boys. These findings are additionally confirmed with structural models.

Peer violence in Pakistan is rooted in poverty and socialization of children, especially at home. A critical question is whether a school-based intervention can empower children to reduce their violence engagement in the context of poverty and social norms supportive of violence. In the political context of Pakistan, reducing all violence is essential and understanding the potential of schools as a platform for intervention is key.

Partial Text

Peer violence has been defined as a repeated act that is intentionally exercised to harm others on purpose, it is violence that is patterned rather than an isolated occurrence [1]. It has further been defined as ‘unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power’ [2]. Peer violence may be direct or indirect. Direct violence includes physical aggression, threats, and name-calling. Whereas, indirect violence includes spreading of rumors, backstabbing, and exclusion [3, 4]. Peer violence can thus be of physical, verbal and social, and may be sexual [5]. Although it has been described in a great range of countries it has not been the subject of much previous research in Pakistan.

The data were from the baseline of the cluster randomized controlled trial conducted to evaluate the intervention Red Ball Child Play of the NGO Right to Play. The trial was conducted on 40 fairly homogeneous schools (20 for girls and 20 for boys), in Hyderabad, Sindh province of Pakistan. We selected age 11 to 12, the 6th grade, for the initial phase of the research. Inclusion criteria for schools were that they should be single gender public middle schools with an outside playground or indoor space in which games can be played, and to have 25 or more students in the grade 6 class and giving consent to participate. To reduce contamination between arms, we only included schools that were more than 1 km away from the nearest other included schools of that gender. For children, in addition to being in 6th grade, they had to provide parental consent and themselves agree to the research. They also had to read the national language of Pakistan Urdu or the provincial language Sindhi. In total 1752 children were recruited into the study. In small schools we invited the whole 6th grade to participate but if the school was large the grade was often divided into 2–3 sections and then we invited just one. The number of children per school ranged from 20–65. Details of the methods of sampling and recruitment are detailed elsewhere [22].

The baseline survey was completed for 1752 children from 40 schools (20 girls and 20 boys), of which 930 were girls and 822 were boys. 90.8% of boys and 75.3% of girls had experienced more than one instance of violence victimization and 75.0% of boys and 49.9% of girls disclosed perpetration of more than one instance of violence in the prior four weeks. There was considerable overlap between experience of victimization and perpetration. In girls, 46.4% reported both, 3.3% only perpetration, 28.6% only experience of victimization and 21.7% neither. In boys 72.6% had experienced/done both, 2.5% had only perpetrated and 17.9% had only been victims. Only 7% were in neither category.

Peer violence is extremely common among girls and boys in grade 6 in Hyderabad schools and the prevalence reported appears to be considerably higher than that found in research from many other settings [6, 28]. These public school children come from poor urban slums which makes innocent and vulnerable exposed to the act of violence be it police brutality or feudal and landlords’ inhuman maltreatment to poor. Thus, we cannot ignore that violence is commercialized by the civil society nationally. Although some children had not been involved in the month prior to the interviews and some had only experienced violence as victims, about half of girls and three quarter of boys had themselves perpetrated and many had experienced violence as well as perpetration. The higher prevalence found among boys is in keeping with global patterns [18]. While, in the analysis we have sought to distinguish between the different groups of girls and boys by peer violence exposure category, there were very considerable similarities between the factors associated with peer violence in boys and girls, and most of the factors considered that showed an association in Tables 1 and 2 in fact had an elevated frequency for both victimization and perpetration (+/- victimization). This suggests predominant similarities between being a victim and perpetrator of peer violence and the interventions should focus on building resilience to all peer violence engagement.

This research shows the large percentage of youth engaged in peer violence, specifically almost half of girls and three quarters of boys reported perpetration against peers. Strong connections between peer violence and huger, poor academic performance, days of school missed, and witness of parental violence emerged. Food insecurity, notably 26% of the boys and 18% of the girls reported going to bed without dinner and similar percentages reported going to school without a meal. These same children were more likely to report perpetration and if a girl more perpetration and victimization were reported. While, in the analysis we have sought to distinguish between the different groups of girls and boys by peer violence exposure category, there were very considerable similarities between the factors associated with peer violence in boys and girls indicating interventions should be equally effective irrespective of gender. This research provides evidence foe a multi-prong approach to peer violence intervention that must include not only a curriculum for violence free relationships but also school feeding programs and community awareness of how witness to violence in the home is carried forth by youth to violence in the classroom.




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