The idea of using corporal punishment (CP) as the means of disciplining children has been in use for quite a while, and it still remains a common practice in a range of communities (Australian Childhood Foundation 2017). Research results, however, point to the fact that the outcomes of this specific practice may be detrimental to a child’s physical and mental health, as well as their psychological well-being (Australian Childhood Foundation 2017).
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Although CP has been proven to provide parents with some modicum of control over their children’s behaviour, the approach is based on force and fear as the fundament for building relationships and setting boundaries between parents and children.
It should be borne in mind, though, that the application of CP and its perception by children varies depending on the culture to which they belong. Therefore, hearing the voice of Australian children in an endeavour to prevent the issue of CP may be complicated since some members of the target demographics may not realise that they are mistreated (Australian Childhood Foundation 2017).
The research question, therefore, can be put in the following way: What are the key differences in the perception of CP by Australian children belonging to different cultural backgrounds, and what strategies can be used to address these specified cultural differences to prevent child abuse?
|Corporal (physical) punishment||The act of hitting someone as a means of eliciting a particular response or cause a certain change in one’s behaviour (Australian Childhood Foundation 2017).|
|Cultural background||Belonging to a particular community with a set of values and traditions that define one’s cultural legacy, behaviour, and social interactions (Australian Childhood Foundation 2017).|
|Perception of CP||Attitude toward the idea of using CP as the means of disciplining children (Australian Childhood Foundation 2017).|
|Children||People that are 12 years old or younger (Australian Childhood Foundation 2017).|
Level of Research Design
According to Neuman, as a rule, three levels of research design are typically identified (Flynn & McDermott 2016): these are the exploratory, descriptive, and explanatory design types. While the descriptive type implies an overview of a specific topic, the explanatory one suggests that a detailed clarification concerning the use or nature of a specific concept should be provided. The exploratory approach, in turn, implies that the phenomenon under analysis should be reviewed from one or more perspectives so that its effects on the target population can be identified (Creswell 2014).
The application of the exploratory approach as the foundation for the current study is fully justified since, although there is a plethora of studies about the positive and negative effects of CP, there is a significant knowledge gap about the rights of children as far as the application of CP is concerned. Therefore, the target area would benefit from a profound analysis and detailed examination. As a result, the opportunities for changing the perception of children that view CP as acceptable will be created. The resulting rise in awareness levels among the target population will allow for exploring the associated problems more efficiently (Magliacani 2014).
In addition, the adoption of the exploratory research design will help study the connection between the cultural background of children and their response to, and perception of, CP in greater detail. A qualitative approach allows one to gain a deeper insight into the specifics of cultural diversity and its effects on the perception of CP-related issues, which makes it perfect for the present study (Creswell 2014).
Study Population and Sample
The adoption of the convenience sampling technique appears to be the most sensible step to take when considering the sampling technique for the study. The reasons for dismissing the convenience sampling approach are rather basic. By definition, the identified framework demands that the target population should be split into groups based on specific categories such as age and gender.
Given that in the case in point there is no reason to split the homogenous population into several subgroups the use of the convenience sampling technique seems more legitimate than the application of the stratified random sampling framework seems legitimate. The use of the convenience sampling approach, in turn, is justified completely since the participants will be recruited at a local school and, therefore, will be selected based on the principles of convenience. While the identified framework has its problems, particularly, the lack of opportunities for representing the diversity of the community fully, it offers extensive opportunities for cutting the costs and time spent on ersearch (Flynn & McDermott 2016).
The selection of the sampling technique is linked directly to the choice of the research design. The non-probability sampling framework, to which stratified random sampling belongs, is typically viewed as an appropriate tool for exploratory research. The application of the stratified sampling technique, in turn, allows the retrieval of precise information about the target population and, therefore, enables the researcher to draw insightful conclusions about the unique characteristics thereof.
As a result, a deeper understanding of the cultural specifics of the target population becomes a possibility. Thus, one will be able to determine the essential differences between the perceptions in question so that a comprehensive strategy for raising awareness about CP and encouraging children to report the instances of CP can be created.
Recruitment Policy: Social Networks and Flyers
The process of recruiting participants to the research will include the active use of social networks. There is no need to stress that social networks define the modern communication process. Therefore, the incorporation of the specified medium into the list of tools for recruiting the target population should be viewed as an important opportunity that must not be missed. In addition, flyers will be used to attract the target population. Two public and two primary schools will participate in the research.
At this point, one must mention the significance of ethical practice in research. By definition, the specified phenomenon implies that research participants should be recruited on a voluntary basis. In other words, the study can only be carried out once the participants are willing to partake in it. Therefore, it will be crucial to send letters of informed consent to the identified demographics. Seeing that the target population is mostly underage, it will be necessary that their parents or legal guardians should provide an informed consent confirming that the students can be a part of the experiment.
The use of the informed consent as the tool for making the study legitimate and familiarising the participants with the objectives of the study aligns with the provisions of the current code of ethics. Indeed, according to paragraph 5.2.3 in the Code of ethics, children are eligible to access the services of social workers without the need for permission from their parents or legal guardians (Australian Association of Social Workers 2010). The identified statements should be viewed as central to improving the current rates of reporting the incidences of child abuse, as well as managing the increasingly high rate of unreasonably rough child rearing techniques involving CP.
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Furthermore, paragraph 5.2.4 states that the privacy and confidentiality of children must be respected. Since some children may be ashamed of their punishment-related experiences, they may need privacy during the communication process. Thus, using an interview should be viewed as a necessity. Moreover, there may be several ESL students among the participants. The service of an interpreted must be used to meet the needs of ESL students according to paragraph 5.1.2 (f) of the Code of ethics.
Furthermore, it is crucial that the rights of children should be respected in the process of conducting the research as stated in Code of Ethics 5.2.4(a) (Australian Association of Social Workers 2010). At this point, it should also be noted, though, that certain ethical dilemmas may arise. According to the provisions of the code of ethics designed by AASW, children as research subjects are entitled to the non-disclosure of their personal data.
Particularly, the researchers are obliged not to inform the parents or legal guardians of the participants about the issues that may be identified in the course of the study unless the participants are willing to share the said pieces of information. On the one hand, the specified regulation recognises the rights of the children taking part in the research. On the other hand, the outcomes of concealing certain information from parents may have a detrimental effect on children, particularly their physical and mental health.
Therefore, the choice between the policy of non-disclosure as the primary aspect of the existing code of ethics and the need to prevent possible health issues will have to be made. To act in the best interests of the children, one will have to follow the principles of the code of ethics, though. Thus, the very foundation for recognising the rights of children and promoting the further management of CP, and child-abuse-related issues, will be created.
Furthermore, the assistance of healthcare practitioners, who will provide children with extensive support so that they could address the sensitive topic of abuse, will be required. Otherwise, the students may experience painful memories that may affect them negatively. The application of a multidisciplinary approach that will promote the active collaboration between the representatives of different research areas is crucial to the overall efficacy of the study and the quality of the information that will be obtained from the participants.
The emphasis on integrating the work of experts working in different domains of child welfare promotion is bound to contribute to the design of a coherent and efficient framework for determining the connection between the cultural specifics of families and the attitudes toward CP as the means of upbringing among the family members, especially children. As a result, the strategy for promoting an alternative approach toward building relationships between parents and children, including the opportunities for building a family hierarchy and introducing a set of behavioural standards to children, will be created.
Two Different Data Collection Tools
A qualitative research method implies that qualitative relationships between the research variables will be considered. In other words, the nature of the phenomenon of child abuse, as well as the tools for addressing it, will be studied (Creswell 2014). Information that provides qualitative characteristics of the studied variables is preferred to statistical data describing the variables and the relationships between them (Creswell 2014).
The importance of data collection cannot possibly be underrated since it allows drawing essential results from the information retrieved in the process. Data collection allows an exploration of the nature of a particular phenomenon by examining the ways in which key variables interact (Flynn & McDermott 2016, pp. 144-145). In the course of research, semi-structured interviews and focus groups will be used to explore the nature and specifics of the perception of CP among Australian children of different ethnic descents. Each of the frameworks has its problems and advantages. For instance, the use of focus groups can be justified by the following facts:
- Allows for direct interaction with the research participants, therefore eliciting essential information from them;
- Saves money significantly by interacting with the participants as a group as opposed to questioning each of them individually;
- Provides the chance of adopting a hands-on approach as the basis for carrying out the research;
- Researchers are free to choose from a wider range of sample options. As a result, the outcomes of the study become less biased and more credible (Flynn & McDermott 2016).
Unfortunately, the use of focus groups also has its problems, with some of them calling into question the credibility and trustworthiness of the research results. For instance, the following issues are very characteristic of focus groups and, therefore, need to be taken into account when using the specified method of data collection:
- Even though focus groups can include many participants and, therefore, be quite representative of the target population, they may fail to showcase the diversity of the target community. As a result, the information provided by them may be somewhat biased;
- Focus groups can need consistent guidance from the leader; otherwise, the participants may fail to deliver the essential information;
- The members of the focus groups may develop the tendency to voice the opinion of the majority as opposed to expressing their own point of view that may differ from the ones of the rest of the team members (Creswell 2014).
Similarly, the application of semi-exploring the nature of structured interviews as the opportunities for retrieving a wider range of information and exploring the phenomenon of CP, as well as the attitudes among children toward the phenomenon, implies specific advantages and disadvantages unique to this methodology. The benefits of using interviews are quite self-explanatory; the use of this tool provides researchers with an impressive amount of flexibility (Creswell 2014). The other key opportunities that can be listed among the essential positive sides of a semi-structured interview are:
- Semi-structured interviews provide a researcher with an impressive amount of flexibility in shaping the communication process, identifying the areas that need to be discussed in depth;
- The respondents have an opportunity to justify their answers by providing detailed clarifications and expanding on the interview questions, as well as having the ability to introduce new ideas, themes, and concepts, which they cannot do when questionnaires or structured interviews are used;
- Semi-structured interviews provide a large amount of reliable qualitative data, therefore, offering extensive opportunities for carrying out qualitative analysis (Flynn & McDermott 2016).
Given the opportunities for retrieving ample amounts of data, semi-structured interviews will be used to collect the necessary information. Semi-structured interviews will help embrace a wide variety of themes and topics, therefore, providing a profound basis for the further analysis (Creswell 2014). Thus, interviews will be the primary data collection tool.
The use of interviews also implies that one will have to deal with the personal data of the participants. Therefore, the key provisions of the Code of ethics must be followed. Particularly, the Code states that the participants must have a clear understanding of the goals of the study and the way in which the data that they will provide will be used (Australian Association of Social Workers 2010, p. 27).
Thus, it will be crucial to deliver the key facts about the study “in accordance with the clients’ level of understanding” (Australian Association of Social Workers 2010, p. 27). Furthermore, the Code of ethics states that “Social workers will ensure, as far as possible, that clients understand the principle of informed consent and the circumstances in which it may be required” (Australian Association of Social Workers 2010, p. 27).
- Have you had any experience of corporal punishment? What kind of punishment did your parents use?
- Is physical punishment acceptable or not acceptable in your culture? Can you tell a bit more?
- From your point of view, do you think that physical punishment should be prohibited? Why?
- Do you think it is a good or bad idea to discipline children by using physical punishment? Why?
- If you were parents, how would you discipline your child?
The questions listed above were designed to determine the attitudes toward CP as a concept among the representatives of the target population. For instance, the questions set the environment in which the participants are willing to share the information that they deem as personal (particularly, their experience of CP). Furthermore, by referring to the cultural background of the respondents and asking them whether CP as a concept is acceptable in their culture, one creates prerequisites for a deeper understanding of the problem and its roots.
Specifically, the factors associated with the participants’ culture and the way in which it shapes their attitude toward CP can be located. As a result, conclusions about whether the respondents view CP as something that borders child abuse or as something entirely acceptable can be made. Furthermore, one must keep in mind that, even under the influence of the culture that accepts and encourages CP as a child-rearing technique, some participants of the study may have developed a negative attitude toward the idea.
Thus, the third question sets the background for identifying possible arguments against the use of CP as the tool for compelling children to behave. The fourth question which addresses the issue of using CP directly encourages the respondents to express their point of view regarding the reasonability of using CP. As a result, it is hoped that the level of acceptance of CP among the members of the target population can be identified.
The information retrieved in this process may explain why the incidences of child abuse remain underreported in the target community. Particularly, the perception of CP as the only acceptable technique for managing the relationships between children and parents is expected to be identified in the course of analysing the responses of the participants.
Method of Data Analysis
The adoption of a thematic analysis seems legitimate since the identified tool helps locate the dominant themes and tendencies in the responses provided by the participants. As a result, the foundation of an all-embracive analysis is built. Traditionally,, six steps of a thematic analysis are identified. These include familiarization with the data (i.e., taking interviews and reading them), coding the data (i.e., using codes to refer to certain data pieces), searching for themes (i.e, using generalized terms to refer to recurrent patterns and themes in the interviews), reviewing themes (i.e., selecting the ones that outline the key tendency), defining and naming themes, and producing the report (Braun, Clarke & Terry 2015).
In the context of the current research, the stages listed above will take the following form: interviewing the participants about their experience of CP, locating recurrent themes (e.g., the approval of CP among children), reviewing them (e.g., selecting valid ones and dismissing irrelevant ones), assigning the selected themes with specific codes, and summarizing the key findings about the perception of CP among children.
The interviews will be recorded with the help of the necessary equipment, transcribed, and re-read carefully to locate recurrent themes. The application of a thematic analysis should be viewed as a chance to enhance the authenticity of the study as soon as the crucial themes are outlined (Flynn & McDermott, 2016, p. 22). Indeed, by challenging the participants to express their opinions openly and engage in discussions, thus, introducing different standpoints on the problem in question, one will be able to retrieve a variety of data that can be used to represent each side of the argument. Consequently, the incorporation of the thematic analysis principles is bound to have a strikingly positive effect on the study’s outcomes.
It is expected that the application of the thematic analysis as the method of managing the retrieved information and arranging it accordingly will help consider the problem from multiple perspectives. For instance, the application of the thematic analysis as a tool for exploring the information provided by the respondents will help shed some light on the impact that cultural specifics have on the perception of CP.
Furthermore, the application of the thematic analysis as the means of exploring the characteristics of the participants’ points of view will show where the respondents draw a line between CP and child abuse. As a result, using an in-depth understanding of cultural factors as the driving forces behind shaping children’s and their parents’ idea of CP will become a possibility.
Furthermore, the use of the thematic analysis as the tool for examining the relationships between the key variables will allow developing an insight into the nature of the identified cultural specifics and traditions. To be more exact, the analysis will help locate the reasons for children to accept the child-rearing techniques that their parents apply and view them as acceptable. This thematic analysis may point to the direction in which the following awareness-raising program will have to go in order to promote a different strategy toward a child’s upbringing to the members of the target community.
The thematic analysis will help define the ways of promoting the idea of child welfare and respect of children’s rights to parents. As a result, the basis for a significant improvement in the relationships between parents and children, as well as the reduction in the rates of CP and child abuse, is expected.
Social Work Practice
It is expected that not only children but also parents will benefit from the results of the study in question. The first and most obvious way is that the research will contribute to the design of a program that, in turn, could lead to a significant drop in CP and child abuse rates in Australian communities, especially among the representatives of other cultures and ethnic backgrounds. In addition, the outcomes of the research will serve as the basis for reconsidering the relationships between parents and children, as well as the idea of a family hierarchy, in general. Thus, parents will be able to build relationships with their children based on the principles of trust, cooperation, and mutual respect.
Using Morton, Phipps and Nutley’s (2012) ideas about the conceptual and instrumental use of findings, the outcomes of the research will also aid in changing people’s ideas about using CP as the means of rearing children. Furthermore, the conceptual use of the framework will lead to helping the community members reconsider their notions of child welfare and children’s rights. To be more specific, it is hoped that parents will develop a respectful attitude toward their children and build their future relationships based on mutual trust and support.
As a result, the tools for disciplining children will change significantly from CP techniques to the approaches based on providing the target population with a role model that they can follow.
Finally, using the Australian Childhood Foundation (2017) as the advocacy organisation for promoting child welfare in the target community, one will be able to attain impressive success. The identified organisation provides extensive information about the issue of child abuse and CP as the possible factor triggering the phenomenon of CP in modern society. Thus, the organisation encourages people to recognise the irrefutable rights of children, including the right to maintain dignity and be treated with respect.
Australian Association of Social Workers 2010, Code of ethics, Kingston, AASW.
Australian Childhood Foundation 2017, Research and advocacy. Web.
Braun, V, Clarke, V & Terry, G 2015, ‘Thematic analysis’, in P Rohleder & AC Lyons (eds), Qualitative research in clinical and health psychology, Monash University Library, Caulfield East, Australia, pp. 95-113.
Creswell, J 2014, Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches, SAGE, Thousand Oaks, CA.
Flynn, C & McDermott, F 2016, Doing research in social work and social care: the journey from student to practitioner researcher, SAGE, Thousand Oaks, CA.
Magliacani, M 2014, Managing cultural heritage: ecomuseums, community governance, social accountability, Springer, New York, NY.
Morton, S, Phipps, D & Nutley, S 2012, ‘Using research to influence family services and policies: issues and challenges’, The Policy Press, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 243-253.