The Gazette, June 7, 2000

Quebec mothers lean to violence, By Infrid Phaneuf

Half of Quebec mothers used corporal punishment on their children at least once in the past year, a newly released survey shows.

The survey, conducted Feb. 8 to May 26, 1999, by the Health Quebec division of the Quebec Institute of Statistics, is the first study of parental violence in the province. Commissioned by the provincial Health Department, the $71,000 survey conducted interviews with 2,469 mothers across the province.

It showed that Quebec children are more likely to suffer from psychological or physical violence at home than their Swedish counterparts, but less so than children in the United States.

"On the international scale, we're somewhere in the middle, but there's still a lot of work to be done," said Camil Bouchard, head of the research team and a psychology professor at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal.

Researchers asked respondents 71 questions on their attitudes toward child-rearing and discipline, their own childhoods, their conjugal relations and socio-demographic and socio-economic situations.

"Violent" child-rearing behaviour was grouped into three categories: psychological, minor physical and severe physical violence.

Psychological violence was defined as shouting or swearing at the child, or otherwise threatening or humiliating him.

Minor physical violence included shaking (for children age 2 or older), spanking with the hands, slapping the hand arm, or leg of a child, or pinching him.

Episodes of severe physical violence included shaking a child under age 2, spanking a child with a hard object (belts included) or punching or kicking him.

Other acts of violence include grabbing him by the neck or choking him, beating him, hitting the child elsewhere with a hard object, throwing him, or slapping or hitting the child on the face, head or ears - in short, any physical violence that could potentially cause serious physical harm.

The study found that parents who were more psychologically violent tended to be more physically violent as well and that parents who occasionally used minor physical violence with their children were more apt to use more severe forms.

Not surprisingly, parents who had experienced some form of psychological or physical violence at the hands of their own caregivers were more likely to resort to it with their own children, Bouchard said, even though the majority of parents who'd experienced psychological or physical violence in their own upbringing were aware of the long-terms damages.

Even so, two-thirds disagreed with criminalizing corporal punishment, as is the case in Sweden.

Parents age 35 to 44 were the most likely to resort to psychological aggression, which was also more prevalent in larger families.

Hostile conjugal relations were, however, closely linked with an increase of severe physical violence. Instances of severe physical violence were also more prevalent in families described by respondents as poor or very poor, compared with those who defined themselves as financially well-off.

In all cases, boys were more likely to be victims of parental violence, especially with regard to physical violence. Researchers also found that minor violence decreased with the child's age.

Information culled from the survey will be used to create programs to help parents learn better parenting skills.

Non-violent disciplinary measures identified by researchers included taking the time to explain to the child why his or her behaviour is unacceptable; making the child take a break; distracting the child; or taking away privileges or a favourite toy as a punishment.

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