The Optimus Study on Child Abuse, Violence and Neglect in South Africa

  • Report/Study

The Optimus Study on Child Abuse, Violence and Neglect in South Africa – Resources


Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention

Publication date

31 Jul 2015

Uploaded by:

Patrick Burton

Uploaded on

07 Oct 2015

Downloads & Links resources


In 2013, the CJCP, together with the Department of Psychology, and the Gender Health and Justice Research Unit, at the University of Cape Town (UCT), were awarded the UBS Optimus Foundation Study on Child Abuse, Violence and Neglect.  The three year study is the first of its kind in South Africa, and forms part of a larger programme on comparative research on the subject, with studies conducted in Switzerland and China. 

The Optimus Study provides the first-ever representative data in South Africa on child maltreatment and exposure to other forms of violence. This research bulletin addresses the lifetime prevalence of violence against children, as reported by 15–17 year old South Africans. These issues were explored both in a household survey and a school survey: in each setting, young people were interviewed about their experiences by trained enumerators, and were also given the opportunity to respond to a small set of questions on a more confidential questionnaire which they completed themselves. The highest reporting rates were obtained from these self-administered questionnaires, particularly in schools. Since violence and abuse are stigmatising and are typically under-reported, it seems that this was the situation in which young people felt most comfortable disclosing their experiences and these rates, therefore, may be the most trustworthy. The study explored several forms of maltreatment (abuse and neglect), and exposure to violence, and most of the figures below are based on the findings from the self-administered questionnaires
completed in schools.

The study will provide information on three areas for the development of appropriate and targeted policy and interventions. These three areas are:

  1. The annual incidence and lifetime prevalence rates in respect of child sexual abuse, violence and maltreatment in South Africa;
  2. The relationship between child sexual abuse and other forms of maltreatment, neglect and violence; and
  3. The extent and nature of other forms of child abuse and violence, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and exposure to other forms of violence, such as peer victimisation, criminal violence and witnessing violence.

The study collected information from 9730 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 17 years old, stratified between households and schools. Of these 5635 were interviewed in randomly selected households, while 4095 were interviewed in schools serving the same areas.