Child Abuse Review features our Participatory Action Research on Corporal Punishment:
Imagine a world where each child has the right to live in a happy family that is full of hope, where children can play in clean playgrounds, where no child is beaten or hit with a piece of wood, belt or hanger, or is cursed, pinched, slapped, or made to kneel on mung beans. That was the dream of a non-violent and nondiscriminatory family and community expressed by a group of street youth in Manila (Wartenweiler and Mansukhani, 2016, online Supporting Information). Such a dream is something that we strive for in our work to combat child
maltreatment worldwide. It is not something that will be easily achieved, but we need to do all that we can to promote it through education, family support and early intervention, services for abused children, legislation and research.
It is fitting, therefore, that our final issue in the 25th anniversary volume of Child Abuse Review should focus on research from different countries, bringing a global perspective on different aspects of safeguarding children.
Legislation is an important component of the struggle against child maltreatment. Legislation banning physical punishment in the Nordic countries may have contributed to the relatively low rates of self-reported physical abuse recorded in a literature review published in Child Abuse Review last year (Kloppen et al., 2015; cf. Stoltenborgh et al., 2015). However, legislation alone cannot achieve changes in attitudes, as highlighted by Ellonen et al. (2015) in their review of parental attitudes in Finland and Sweden 30 years after the ban on corporal punishment.
It is in this context that the participatory research being reported by Daniel Wartenweiler and Roseann Mansukhani (2016) in this issue is so pertinent. The authors point out that, ‘even though the Philippine law prohibits “cruelty” leading to “physical or psychological injury”, it views “reasonable” and “moderate” physical discipline as “necessary” for proper child-rearing’ (p. 411), so that, while a bill prohibiting corporal punishment was passed in the House of Representatives in 2011, it remains under discussion in the Senate.
Wartenweiler and Mansukhani undertook a project with 11 young people who were currently or had previously been living on the streets in Manila and who had reported corporal punishment by their parents. The normalcy of corporal punishment within these families was evident, and the young people identified how it was repeated and frequent, typically severe and not commensurate to the wrongdoing, and often baseless. They reported often quite disturbing examples of both physical and verbal abuse within the guise of discipline. The young people reported feelings of rejection, anger and resentment, rifts in the parent–child relationship and defiant behaviours as a result.
However, Wartenweiler and Mansukhani’s (2016) research also presents a truly inspiring vision of what can be achieved through robust participatory research with young people. As part of the research project, the young people themselves decided to produce a short video, communicating what they wanted to say about corporal punishment, and to show the video to parents from their
community. An abbreviated version of the video with English subtitles is available online (https://youtu.be/dP5nFhj_9O4) and is well worth watching. After watching the video, the parents were divided into four groups to discuss their reactions. The parents in the meeting ‘expressed receptiveness to the message in the video and reported realisations about their harsh discipline strategies and their effects on the children’ (p. 417). The young people themselves felt that their voices had been heard and their ‘courage to tell their stories grew, and with that the desire and determination to make their voices heard and to take a stand against corporal punishment’ (p. 418). Most impressive, however, were the reported changes following the parents’ meeting, with most participants reporting changes in parental discipline and parent–child relationships, summed up in the experience of one young person who had previously reported that:
Sometimes […] she [mother] shamed me in front of my friends and she took my clothes off in front of many people. Sometimes she tied me to a pedicab with a chain. Sometimes she beat me and she banged my head on the steel bars. (p. 415).
Following the project, this young person reported that she had returned to live with her mother, and that their relationship had improved: ‘I am not scared anymore because I know my mother is now listening to my problems and to my feelings’ (p. 418). This paper is a powerful example of what can be achieved through participatory action research. As summed up by the authors:
From the safety of their storytelling, [the young people] had made the transition to the bigger world, and from being hidden and disempowered, they had become actors on social transformation. Because they had been empowered themselves, they now wanted other children to become empowered too. (p. 420).
Sidebotham, P. (2016). Kneeling on Mung Beans. Child Abuse Review, 25(6), 405-409. doi: 10.1002/car.2462
Full research article (subscription required):
, and (2016) Participatory Action Research with Filipino Street Youth: Their Voice and Action against Corporal Punishment. Child Abuse Review, 25(6): 410–423. doi: 10.1002/car.2421