DUBAI // Care experts yesterday emphasised the detrimental consequences that dysfunctional families often had on children.
Domestic violence and divorce were areas of particular concern, they said.
Citing an example, Dr Mona Al Bahar, the deputy chief executive of care and community services at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWC), said the shelter once had a case in which a little girl was consistently aggressive, running around with a knife and tying her hands with rope.
"The young girl was witnessing how her parents were behaving and it affected her psychologically," Dr Al Bahar said.
Dr Al Bahar was speaking at a two-day workshop held by the foundation to train social workers from public schools how to handle problems that pupils may face, both academically and privately.
According to the DFWC annual report, 22 of 122 new in-patients at the foundation last year were domestic violence victims. Half the domestic violence patients were Emiratis, a 20 per cent increase from 2009.
This month alone, the foundation registered about 15 new cases, of which nine were related to domestic violence, Dr Al Bahar said.
However, domestic violence was only one of many areas of concern. Social workers from public schools said one of the biggest challenges they faced was counselling the children of divorced parents.
Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show that the divorce rate between Emiratis last year stood at nearly 20 per cent; 15 divorce certificates were issued for every 75 marriage contracts.
Mariam Ali Butala Al Shehi, a social worker from the Um Romman girl's school in Sharjah, said that although each pupil handled divorce differently, many girls demonstrated eccentric behaviour.
"For example, in some cases, if the father figure is absent from the house, the daughter assumes the role of a male," Ms Al Shehi said. "By role, not as in the responsibilities, but as in the way they behave."
Ms Al Shehi said it was difficult to confront parents about these kinds of issues, especially when they did not observe the behaviour themselves.
"The girls act differently at home, so the parents refuse to believe that their daughter is behaving this way," Ms Al Shehi said.
However, through training programmes such as yesterday's workshop, Ms Al Shehi said that she hoped to learn techniques that would help her deal with domestic situations.
Meanwhile, Dr Al Bahar said the DFWC had recently been accepting male requests for help.
"We don't close our door to anyone, regardless of age, gender or race," she said. "Men call us telling us they are facing problems with their family, which ultimately means it's affecting their wives and children."
Dr Al Bahar said men were treated as outpatients so as not to disturb the women and children who were at the shelter.
Last month, the DFWC announced plans to conduct a study to discover the extent of domestic abuse and violence against children in the country.
More than 2,000 households across all seven emirates are expected to take part in the survey, which will be part of a larger global study being conducted by the United Nation's International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. The pilot survey will run in September.