Breaking the Intergenerational Cycle of Physical Punishment
Sturkenboom, G. A. (2007). Breaking the Intergenerational Cycle of Physical Punishment (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2334
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2334
Fifteen women and five men participated in a study aimed at devising strategies to reduce the use of physical punishment in New Zealand. The potential problems with the use of physical punishment, the extent of its use in New Zealand, and the likelihood of intergenerational transmission are discussed to justify the aim of the study. The participants were all parents who had been smacked themselves, but who had decided not to smack their own children. Their ages ranged from 28 to 57, and only three had less than some tertiary education. They were from various ethnic backgrounds; fourteen had an occupation other than parenting, and nine were single parents. The participants had broken the intergenerational cycle of physical punishment: they had been smacked themselves but did not smack their own children. All participated in an individual, semi-structured interview, in which their childhood physical punishment, their decision not to smack, the maintenance of that decision, and their use of alternative disciplinary techniques were discussed. Four participated in a focus group, in which the strategies suggested in the interviews were discussed and refined to produce a final list of recommendations. The parents made a conscious decision against smacking, which involved a particular experience that prompted them to consider their disciplinary practices. Negative views of smacking (ineffective, modelling violence, and potential to escalate) were also helpful in making the decision. While maintaining their decision was usually easy, alternative techniques were sometimes hard to use, though effective in the long term. Some had to deal with the effects of deviating from a childrearing norm, particularly in regard to other family members. While many were satisfied that their own children were free from physical punishment, some had actively tried to convince other parents not to use it as well. They recommended strategies aimed at achieving the goals of parent education, raising awareness, reducing strain, and increasing support for parents. They also suggested practical steps that individual parents who were interested in breaking the cycle of physical punishment could take. The limitations and strengths of the study are discussed, as well as the implications for further research. The study demonstrates that parenting without physical punishment is effective, desirable, and achievable, even by parents who were smacked themselves. It presents a number of possible strategies and intermediate goals, for interventions at a national, community, or individual level, which aim to reduce the use of physical punishment.
The University of Waikato
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