Children are the wealth of tomorrow. A child is unique individual; he or she is not miniature adult, not a little man or woman. The childhood period is vital because of socialization process by the transmission of attitude, custom, and behavior through the influence of the family and community, children are vulnerable to disease, death, and disability owing to their age, sex, place of living, social economic status and a host of other variables. They need appropriate care for survival and healthy development.

Engagement in economic activities at an early age and participation especially in hazardous and exploitative work could have a devastating effect on children's physical and mental development and might also cause irreversible damage leading to permanent disability. Children engaged in such activities are deprived of their childhood and potential by the demands of long hours and exposure to physical, social or psychological stress. Inadequate pay, high responsibility and lack of access to education all contribute to undermining the dignity and self-esteem of children.

A study done in Nairobi, Kenya, indicated that out of 500 domestic servants between the ages of 6 and 15 years, 90 % suffered from severe emotional distress, had symptoms of withdrawal and regression, and were prematurely aging, as well as experiencing depression and low self esteem.

Children who are in risky job fields have no opportunity to build their natural psychosocial health. Long working hours breed their feeling of frustration and inadequacy. Their involvement in risky work resists eventually in building their emotional cognitive skills and they become withdrawn, introvert and uncommunicative. A significant portion of the children working at construction and welding sector are suffering from psychological immaturity and overall 40 percent child laborers are affected by abnormal psychological growth. They are also deprived of the special care that would be required for their psychological effects.

It is now difficult to abolish child labor in the present situation of our country, but these children can be protected from health hazards, abuse and exploitation. Working condition for these children can be improved and regulated. Elimination of child labor can only be possible with combine effort of parents, community, government, nongovernment and voluntary agencies.

Maryam Riaz
Clinical Psychologist
Willing Ways, Islamabad