Wait for this to hit the news. Just published at the Ministry of Social Development website, What Do Children Tell Us About Physical Punishment As A Risk Factor For Child Abuse?
This paper discusses children’s views of family discipline and possible implications for policymakers. In 2004, 80 New Zealand children, between five and 14 years of age, took part in research eliciting their views on family discipline.
It is a very small sample.
The children were introduced to fictional characters who asked the questions.
Splodge (a fictional alien from outer space) was introduced to the children (5–11 years) as being very curious about life on Earth. They were told that Splodge did not know much about life on Earth and wanted to know about lots of things. Splodge was especially interested to know about family discipline and thought that children would be the best people to ask. The children were asked if they could help Splodge by answering the questions in the Splodge storybook. Spike was introduced to the older children (12–14 years) as having just landed on earth from the planet Nostro to complete a homework assignment. The homework assignment was about what children on Earth think about family discipline. The older children were asked if they could assist Spike in completing the homework assignment by answering some questions. The questions Spike asked were the same as those asked by Splodge. Both presentations were adapted from the 1998 Willow and Hyder study. The focus group discussions were 60 minutes long on average. The discussions were audiotaped and later transcribed and analysed thematically.
Hence,We have to be cautious in our interpretation of these findings of children’s explanations of concepts and events to a fictional character.
These questions were asked about children in general, rather than their own individual experiences. On the other hand, the children’s verbatim responses indicate that they are generally talking about their own subjective experiences within their families.
For instance, they were all asked, What are some of the things that happen to children when they do things they shouldn't? From the responses 61% said parents use physical punishment. Presumably 39% did not. But spontaneously only 10% of the 5-7 year-olds and 14% of the 9-11 year-olds said they were not smacked. Each child was not asked whether or not they were smacked. But these findings were considered significant enough to include.
84% lived with both parents. That is not representative, despite the research claiming socio-econimc and ethnic diversity.
Further from the abstract, In response to questions on family discipline children spontaneously revealed concerning levels of the frequency and severity of physical punishment, some of which would be identified as child abuse using any threshold. Children’s reports of the context in which physical punishment was delivered by parents was also of concern. Many children reported high levels of confusion when trying to link their own views of physical punishment with the actions of their parents.
So this unscientific piece of research will now be wheeled out in support of repealing section 59 because, The findings from this study indicate that children who live in homes where physical punishment is used are more at risk of child abuse than those that do not.
It would have been most interesting to see the parental responses to this research. When David Fergusson researched partner violence he looked at each partner's individual reporting and then matched them for similarity of statements. That's what I would like to see happen here, though I'm not convinced wheeling out aliens to do the interviewing would be halpful .
Samizdata quote of the day
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