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Elizabeth Nixon & Ann Marie Halpenny. Background to the Study Importance of control/discipline dimension of parenting for children’s development and well-being.

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Presentation on theme: "Elizabeth Nixon & Ann Marie Halpenny. Background to the Study Importance of control/discipline dimension of parenting for children’s development and well-being."— Presentation transcript:

1 Elizabeth Nixon & Ann Marie Halpenny

2 Background to the Study Importance of control/discipline dimension of parenting for children’s development and well-being Power assertion – threat or actual use of force, physical punishment or withdrawal of privileges Love withdrawal – withholding attention, affection or approval, expressing disappointment Induction – use of reason and explanation No universal recipe for ‘effective’ discipline (Smith et al., 2005) – although several studies have documented the negative consequences of using physical punishment Discourse of children’s rights and move to prohibit physical punishment of children by their parents/in the home in many countries Lack of research on children’s perspectives on parenting

3 Research Questions Explore children’s perspectives on: 1.Nature of parenting roles 2.Effects of different parenting styles and disciplinary strategies, including physical punishment, on their lives 3.Legislation relating to physical punishment in the home How do these perspectives change over the course of development (i.e. as children become older)? What do children’s perspectives reflect about how they position themselves within family and their understanding of rights and responsibilities within family?

4 Design & Method Qualitative Study utilising a focus group method 30 focus groups conducted in 7 schools with 132 children/teenagers Class GroupMean Age (years)BoysGirlsTotal 1 st class th class st year Transition Year Mixed social backgrounds 93% were Irish 87% two-parent households

5 Focus Group Discussions 1.Roles in the family, particularly mother and father roles and distinctions between them 2.Care and support in the family, including how parents respond to and are sensitive to children’s needs 3.Control in the family, including how parents monitor and discipline their children 4.Parental strategies of discipline, including ‘acceptable’ forms of discipline and physical punishment 5.Perceptions of the effectiveness and impact of different parenting strategies, and the factors associated with the use of different parenting strategies 6.Perspectives on the comparison between childhood and parenthood; and rights and responsibilities in families

6 Key Findings: Parenting Roles Eight parenting roles were identified: 1.Sustenance and care-giving: “they give you shelter and food” 2.Protection: “look after you and protect you and make you feel safe” 3.Breadwinning: “goes out to work to get money, to pay for the house and all the things that you need” 4.Guidance: “they help you when you’re starting to go on, with no retainers on your bike, they kind of give you a head start” 5.Authority: “they should limit you, like where you’re allowed to go whenever you’re out” 6.Shared activities: “they bring them to loads of nice places” 7.Emotional support: “they check on you if everything is OK, like if you are sad” 8.Facilitating autonomy: “keep a bit of privacy for your child, give them space” Gendered Nature of Parenting Roles: Generally child adopted an egalitarian model as the ideal. In reality, many of them experienced distinct mother and father roles, which in many cases approached the traditional model of family roles

7 Key Findings: Parental Control & Discipline Three categories of Discipline Strategies – inductive and power- assertive strategies, and love withdrawal Effectiveness of Discipline Strategies – contingent upon context & child Four principles underpinned effective discipline Loss of privilege “Well there isn’t much point in grounding someone if they’re still allowed to do everything, like play Playstation, watch TV” [1 st year Boy] “Because it’s good for you if they put you in your room like you’ll always find something else to do…it doesn’t really teach you a lesson. But if they like take something away from that you really like then you’ll know you’re not going to do it again” [1 st year Girl]

8 Key Findings: Parental Control & Discipline Instructional Value “It’s easier for people to talk it out because you learn more than just if they hit you once the pain would go away…just if you talk it out with the child they’ll probably learn more than just hitting them” [1 st year girl] Consistency “Sometimes they go through with it, like but if they say they’re going to do it and they don’t then, you don’t believe that you’ve done anything wrong” [TY Girl] “If you wanted to call for your friend, you just say ‘no’, and then the next day ‘no’ and the next day ‘no’ until you learn not to be bold” [1st class Boy] Ethic of Fairness “Sometimes you might get slapped if, say your brother like knocked over a plant and then he blamed it on you, your mom might slap you and that wouldn’t be fair” [1st year girl]

9 Key Findings: Use of Physical Punishment Why do parents use physical punishment? Child behaviours – repeatedly disobeying parental demands “Because they’re just getting sick of you, and if you’re being bold nearly all of time they’ll just get sick of you, and they’ll go ‘right, I think I better slap you” [1st class girl] Parental anger or loss of control “I think they’re just hitting them out of rage…they don’t know what to do so they just hit them” [TY girl] How does it make children feel? Distinction between slap/tap and more severe form of physical punishment Negative emotional responses… sadness, unloved, upset, sore, mad, scared

10 Key Findings: Rationales for Physical Punishment “It depends what it is, if it’s something like, silly, like you didn’t make your bed or something and they slapped you anyway, but say if you were caught smoking or something, maybe for that” [1st year boy] “If they’re going to go around smoking hash and taking tablets and doing other drugs, I think they’re liable to get a beating” [TY boy] ‘Teaching you to be good’ Setting boundaries for children Rationale dependent upon context in which it occurs – justifiable in contexts where child’s health or safety is at risk Physical punishment should not be prohibited in the home Necessary in some circumstances & parents have a right to physically punish [comparison with teachers] “Like your mam and dad own you so they can hit you once or twice and a teacher doesn’t own you, they just teach you” [4 th class group]

11 Key Findings: Rationales Against Physical Punishment Lack of communication and no instructional value - “It’s hurting people and it doesn’t really get through” [1 st class group] Increase aggression in children – “It could make them more violent” [1 st year boy] Potential to cause injury or pain – “You might hurt them” [1 st year boy] Potential to cause emotional distress and damage the parent-child relationship - “[Parents] think it does [work], but it doesn’t…because the children will grow up hating their parents [1st year boy] Physical punishment should be prohibited in the home Risk that some parents might abuse their ‘right’ to physically punish their child “It’s probably some parents abuse it though and say “Aw well they’re my kids”…I can do this. Like I don’t think that should be allowed” [TY boy]

12 Key Findings: Rights & Responsibilities within Families Parental Responsibility => stress, worry and hard work “Like you have a child. That’s your responsibility. No one else is going to look after it so you’re going to have to look after it, clean it, wash it, love it unconditionally, help it, nurture it, financially, like make sure they’ve got clothes on their backs and they can go to school and they have a roof over their head and all that. Enormous amount of responsibility because it’s like a person” [Transition year girl] Parental Rights => Discourse of ownership “They’ve looked after you all these years and they know what’s good for you…what’s good for you or not” [1 st year boy] Right to regulate and monitor Right to discipline and use physical punishment “They have a right to know where you are but like they don’t have a right to know what you’re doing there, like if you’re with a girl or playing football or whatever” [Transition year boy]

13 Key Findings: Rights & Responsibilities within Families Children’s Rights and Responsibilities Younger children had limited understanding of rights “I think they have the right to play out with their friends and they have like the right to walk their dog or let one or two friends in the house” [4 th class girl] Older children had more sophisticated understanding of rights, including how parents’ rights were constrained All children were very explicit about their responsibilities “C1: I think you have to be responsible for all your toys, because if you lose your toy you’re responsible for it, it’s not your mam, your mam doesn’t go looking, so you have to C2: She has too many things to do like cook and wash and look after things” [1 st class girls] “Yeah kids have to be responsible as well and help everybody out. Like a family works as a unit like …everybody should look out for everybody” [Transition year boy]

14 Conclusions Children clearly position themselves as subordinate to their parents and affirm parents’ rights to control and monitor their behaviour. Children considered that parental use of discipline was both justified and motivated by a concern for child safety and well-being Children demonstrated a clear ability to judge and respond to the discipline strategies that parents used. Effective strategies were underpinned by: loss of privilege, instructional value, consistency and fairness [punishment should match misdeed] Majority of children described time-out as a common approach used by parents Ambivalence permeated children’s perspectives on parental use of physical punishment – children generally accepted the use of physical punishment as a parental right. However, their endorsement of physical punishment was clearly dependent on the context – including nature of transgression and age of the child.


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