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Psychosocial, demographic, educational and health characteristics of street children – a qualitative study

Taha Ayub, Dinesh Kumar, Tajali Nazir Shora.

Background: More and more children are being pushed on the street for various reasons. Children “on” and “of the street” continue to languish at the fringes of society. They will continue to do so unless we wake up to the harsh reality that the phenomenon of street children does not exist only in numbers; it is evident in myriad colors of deprivation and poor physical and psychological health. Programs and strategies to address their condition are not effectively implemented due to lack of information in Jammu region.

Objective: To explore and understand the psychosocial, demographic, educational and health characteristics of street children in an urban area.

Material and Methods: 80 street children were observed and interviewed in-depth employing an open-ended questionnaire supplemented with probes wherever necessary. The participants were chosen after mapping potential sites in urban Jammu using purposive and snowball sampling.

Result: More than half (52.5%) of all children studied were females. The street children were aged between 7 and 18 years and majority of them (81.25%) were not attending school and were engaged in petty jobs. Almost all of them suffered from common morbidities such as respiratory problems, gastrointestinal problems, fever, injuries, and dental problems. Content analysis of the transcripts yielded five major themes: poverty, family disharmony, civil unrest, unplanned migration and discontinuation of schooling with number of major and minor categories.

Conclusion: The study substantiates that multiple factors are responsible for them being on street. There was an apparent lack of organised health and social services for street children in Jammu. Near absence of non-governmental organizations was noticeable.

Key words: street children, poverty, familial issues, civil unrest, migration, qualitative study

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