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While most parents discipline their children with love, understanding, and compassion, some, although well-intentioned, use harsher methods of discipline that may negatively affect a child (Shea, 2008). …
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Exploring the Experiences of Harsh Rearing Practices
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Download file to see previous pages Those negative consequences may persist through adulthood. As posited by Dean (1979) some parents' intentions are "legitimate and positive, but the results are devastating" (p. 20). Dean relates the story of a young female whose parents shaved her head as a punishment for returning home late one evening. In this case, their harsh method of disciplining was labeled as emotional abuse because of the humiliating component of the punishment and its long-term effects (p. 19). At what point do parents become abusive? According to Grusec and Walter (1991), "parenting socialization practices can be arranged on a continuum… from 'good to bad," with abusive childrearing practices at the negative end of this continuum" (p. 189). They categorize five socialization practices that might be found toward the end of the continuum and that may be potentially abusive. They include harmful disciplinary practices (withdrawal of love, humiliation, authoritarian methods of childrearing); lack of responsivity, warmth, and acceptance; exposure to deviant models (pornography… family violence); extreme overprotection, and exploitation; (i.e., a child who becomes a "parent" to his mother and father). However, the line between harsh parenting practices and psychological maltreatment of a child might be difficult to delineate because not all harsh forms of punishment are labeled as abusive. In some cases, harsh punishment might be effective (Crosson, 2005). In a study examining the relationship between different forms of parenting and adolescent adjustment, Avenevoli, Sassa, and Steinberg (1999) found that authoritarian parenting style was correlated with an increase in GPA in certain minority families (Asian middle-class intact families and single-parent families) and a decrease in delinquency in some minority families. However, the harsh parenting style is "generally related to greater psychological distress, lower self-esteem, lower GPA and lower substance use" (p. 79). When harsh parenting methods are inflicted on children without any positive input from parents, psychological maltreatment may ensue, often without the knowledge of the perpetrator or the victim and often with devastating results for the children (Dean, 1979). Purpose of Study The purpose of this study is to explore and to better understand the perception that participants have about the way they were parented and the possible role their upbringing plays in their current life and in their interaction with their children when applicable. Since it has been shown that women who were psychologically abused as children tend to minimize or deny having been abused (Ferguson & Dacey, 1997), another objective of this study is to explore this issue and examine whether some victims of psychological abuse are indeed reluctant to label their experience as abuse. Lastly, this study will also explore the possibility that some mediating factors, such as maternal support, sibling support, or extended family support, helped the participants cope with abuse. Literature Review Briere and Runtz (1990) examined the possible unique relationship between the three different kinds of abuse (psychological, physical and sexual) and their impact on self-esteem, aggression and dysfunctional sexual behavior respectively, and found a unique relationship between psychological abuse and low self-esteem. They also found unique associations between physical abuse and higher levels of aggression and between sexual abuse and sexually maladaptive behavior. The sample was composed of 277 female college students enrolled in an introductory course in psychology. However, the authors cautioned that the different kinds ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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