|Year : 2022 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 149-153
Spare the rod and spoil the child? Child disciplining practices adopted by mothers in Urban Maharashtra, India
Sreeni V Nair1, Arun Kumar Yadav2, Reema Mukherjee3
1 Station Health Organisation, Ferozpur, Punjab, India
2 Department of Community Medicine, AFMC, Pune, Maharashtra, India
3 Public Health Consultant, Pune, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Submission||23-Jul-2021|
|Date of Decision||24-Jan-2022|
|Date of Acceptance||21-Feb-2022|
|Date of Web Publication||10-Aug-2022|
(Dr) Reema Mukherjee
GA 16 Utopia Housing Society, Pune - 411 040, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Background: Very little is known about child disciplining practices adopted by parents in India. Few studies carried out in India have shown a high prevalence of violent disciplining practices. Aims: We carried out this study to assess the nature and severity of violent disciplinary practices (VDPs) adopted by mothers in urban Maharashtra and identify possible social and demographic factors associated with them. Materials and Methods: This descriptive cross-sectional study was carried out in a hospital attached to a medical college in Western Maharashtra, India. One hundred mothers were included in our study, and written informed consent was taken from all participants. The UNICEF/WHO Child Discipline Module questionnaire was used as the data collection tool. Ethical clearance was also obtained from the Institutional Ethical Committee before the conduct of the research. Statistical Analysis: Contingencies tables were made to find out factors associated with discipline behavior. Bivariate logistic regression was done, and factors found statistically significant were taken into multivariable logistic regression. Results: Seventy-one percent of mothers used VDP against their children. The older age of a child's mother and father and female gender significantly increased the child's risk of facing VDP. Conclusion: There is a need to sensitize parents on the ill effects of VDP on the physical and mental health of children.
Keywords: Child discipline, child health, child violence, nonviolent disciplinary practice, violent disciplinary practice
|How to cite this article:|
Nair SV, Yadav AK, Mukherjee R. Spare the rod and spoil the child? Child disciplining practices adopted by mothers in Urban Maharashtra, India. J Mar Med Soc 2022;24:149-53
| Introduction|| |
Parents use punishment as a ready tool to discipline children. Punishment is widely accepted as a socially appropriate method of teaching children “right from wrong.” There is no universally accepted classification of child disciplinary practices. Parents and caregivers broadly use two tactics to teach the child acceptable behavior: Nonviolent disciplinary practices(NVDP) and Violent disciplinary practices(VDP). NVDP comprises positive reinforcement strategies, redirecting the child's attention, and paying attention to the positives, whereas VDP uses physical or psychological aggression as a disciplinary tool.,,, What constitutes child discipline and what form of disciplinary practice is acceptable differs across different countries, socioeconomic settings, and cultural environments. Most cultures permit, condone, and even encourage VDP to discipline children; however, such violent aggression against children may have long-term negative consequences on the child's development and well-being.,, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that VDPs amount to a violation of a child's right to protection from all forms of violence while in the care of their parents/caregivers. An abusive parent–child (PC) relationship, be it physical, emotional, or sexual, even to discipline the child, is a clear violation of the latter's human rights.
Most violence against children is physical punishment or psychological aggression; it takes place in their homes. UNICEF reported that an alarming 84% of children in the age group of 2 to 4 years faced VDP at their homes, and almost 60% of them experienced severe forms of physical aggression. A study from Turkey reported that nine out of ten mothers, of children between 2 and 5 years, use either physical or psychological aggression to discipline their children. A study from Vietnam reported a similar percentage of children in the age group of 2–14 years exposed to violent physical aggression as a discipline tool.
Relatively little is known about how parents discipline their children in India. A study from Kerala reported that 50% of mothers use severe physical abuse against their children. In a large-scale study from rural Maharashtra, 42% of mothers accepted that they use physical punishment for their children. The complex web of poverty, beliefs, cultural attitudes, and gender bias, especially in countries such as India, makes it difficult to define and identify child abuse and neglect within a family. In our country, child physical abuse is an understated issue and takes many forms both within the family and society. Without adequate data, it is difficult to describe the nature and extent of physical intimidation children face in their homes or develop effective strategies to promote positive parenting and prevent violence against children. With this background, we attempted to study the nature and severity of VDPs adopted by mothers in urban Maharashtra and identify possible social and demographic factors associated with them.
| Materials and Methods|| |
We carried out this descriptive, cross-sectional study in a tertiary care hospital located in Western Maharashtra. Mothers who attended the pediatric outpatient department (OPD), having at least one child aged 3–17 years, were included in the study. Mothers whose children were suffering from a chronic ailment were excluded from the study. The study was carried out from October to December 2019. The UNICEF/WHO Child Discipline Module questionnaire was used as the data collection tool. This Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey child discipline module is a modified version of the PC Conflict Tactics Scale.,,
Data were collected during face-to-face interviews. A single researcher conducted all the interviews. The interviews were conducted in the participants' preferred language (Hindi/English/Marathi) after thoroughly explaining the study's purpose. The questionnaire asked about the mother's disciplinary methods during the month preceding the interview, adopted on the child they had brought to the pediatric OPD for medical advice. Written informed consent was obtained from each participant, and ethical clearance was obtained from the institutional ethical committee.
The Child Discipline Module has 11 questions. Three of these questions inquire about NVDP (like taking away privileges, explaining to the child why his/her behavior was wrong). There are eight items on VDPs. Of these eight questions, two items pertain to psychological aggression, four to physical punishment, and two to severe physical punishment.
We calculated the sample size assuming the proportion of mothers using VDP as 80%, with 10% relative precision and 95% confidence interval. The calculated sample size was 96. However, 100 consecutive mothers attending OPD during the study period were enrolled in the study.
The data were collated in MS Excel. The qualitative variable is summarized as percentages and numbers. Contingencies tables were made to find out factors associated with discipline behavior. Bivariate logistic regression was done, and factors found statistically significant were taken into multivariable logistic regression. The data were analyzed using StataCorp. 2019. Stata Statistical Software: Release 16. College Station, TX, USA: StataCorp LLC. P < 0.05 was considered significant.
| Results|| |
We studied the responses of 100 mothers regarding the disciplining practices adopted toward their children. A majority (59%) of the children were male. Nineteen percent of children were single children in their families. Of the 100 mothers included, 61% were aged 26–33 years, and 32% were graduates and above. Nineteen percent of the fathers belonged to the age group between 26 and 41 years. Only 32% of the mothers were working women compared to 100% employed fathers. The socio-demographic details of the participants are given in [Table 1].
|Table 1: Distribution of sociodemographic variable with reference to violent disciplinary practice|
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Child disciplinary practices
In our study, most mothers (71%) admitted using some VDPs in the preceding month, whereas 29% used only NVDPs to discipline their children. We report the use of psychological aggression by 52% of mothers (call the child stupid/silly or shout at the child) and “violent discipline' by 17% of mothers (being hit on the face/head/ears or being hit with a belt/stick brush or being hit repeatedly). Among the 29 mothers who only adopted NVDP on their children, the majority (76%) tried to explain to the child why their behavior was wrong [Figure 1]. Of the 71 mothers who used VDP, a majority (70.4%) shouted at their children, and 25% of mothers called their children “dumb or silly” [Figure 2]. Both these disciplining practices are considered psychological aggression. Of these 71 mothers adopting VDP, 59 (83.1%) mothers used physical aggression against the child.
In the bivariate analysis [Table 2], we found that odds of facing VDP were significantly higher for children with older mothers (odd ratio [OR] = 6.06; 1.3–27), older fathers (OR = 3.8; 1.5–9.6), and lesser-educated mothers (OR 3.6; 1.4–9.0).
|Table 2: Bivariate and multivariable logistic regression analysis of factor associated with violent disciplinary practice|
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However, in the multivariable analysis, only gender and mothers' age were significantly associated with the outcome.
| Discussion|| |
We report a 71% prevalence of VDP by mothers to discipline their children. Only 29% of mothers used NVDP. This is higher than that reported by Nair et al. from Kerala (50%) and Hunter et al. from rural Maharashtra (42%)., However, our findings are consistent with the World SAFE study findings carried out in several locations in India, where 63%–89% of families resorted to physical abuse. In contrast, almost 3%–40% of families admitted to using harsh physical punishment to discipline their children.
A UNICEF report in 2014 analyzed data from around 62 countries and found that 80% of children aged 2–14 face “violent discipline,” and 17% experienced severe physical punishment by their caregivers in the past month. The percentage of children experiencing violent punishment ranges from 38% in Bosnia and Herzegovina to 95% in Yemen. In a study conducted on mothers in Brazil, Chile, Egypt, India, the Philippines, and the United States, 14.3% of the children were found to have experienced rigorous and physically abusive discipline. This variation in the prevalence of VDPs across different regions highlights the thorny issue of child discipline and parents' differing views on what constitutes correct or acceptable child-rearing and parenting practices.
Our study found that older mothers and fathers and mothers with low education tend to adopt VDP. We did not find any association between the family's socioeconomic status and children's experience of VDP. Hunter et al. reported a 6% increased likelihood of VDPs by mothers with each unit decrease in education. Studies from the United States and elsewhere also show low maternal education and low socioeconomic status associated with child abuse and physical punishment., However, the multicounty UNICEF study did not report any association between socioeconomic status and physical abuse.
Girls were more likely to face VDP in our study (OR 3.7;1.2–11.1). While Hunter et al. found no sex difference for any form of discipline, studies from Hong Kong and China have found the experience of VDP to be gendered with a higher rate of violence against boys than girls by the mothers. However, there are reports that Indian mothers subject their girls to severe physical violence. It is possible that parents are harsher toward a girl child as they feel she needs to conform to the stereotypical view of being obedient and subservient, and any act to the contrary may invite parental displeasure and discipline.
Ours is one of the few studies carried out in India on the issue of child disciplining practices. We have also used a standardized questionnaire, and hence, our findings are comparable with other studies utilizing the same questionnaire. However, there are certain limitations with our study; there is a possibility of a misclassification bias as the mothers' responses could have been tempered by what is considered socially acceptable, especially as some of the children were ill. Recall bias and the fact that the study participants were mothers attending the pediatric OPD of a tertiary care hospital in an urban area could affect the finding and the generalizability of this study's findings cannot be generalized to other populations. However, despite these limitations, our study does bring out the widespread prevalence of violent disciplining practices being adopted by mothers, and further qualitative studies are required to understand this pertinent health issue.
| Conclusion|| |
We found that most mothers we interviewed resort to violent child discipline measures. While ensuring good behavior and self-discipline in children is a vital parenting responsibility, with growing evidence regarding the impact of child-rearing and disciplining on children's future emotional and mental health, there is a need in India to sensitize parents against the use of such methods.
We conclude that although violence against children in the garb of disciplined child-rearing is widespread in our communities, still not recognized as a cause of harm. Extensive awareness generation needs to sensitize mothers and caregivers about the health impacts that the VDPs can have on their kids in the future.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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[Figure 1], [Figure 2]
[Table 1], [Table 2]