Study explores parents 'negative touch'
Parents use 'strong arm' methods to control their children in public, much more than what they say in surveys or demonstrate in lab experiments, according to a study.
The study, led by Michigan State University psychologist Kathy Stansbury, found that 23 percent of youngsters received some type of "negative touch", namely arm pulling, pinching, slapping and spanking when they failed to comply with a parental request in restaurants and parks.
"I was very surprised to see what many people consider a socially undesirable behaviour done by nearly a quarter of the caregivers," said Stansbury, associate professor of human development and family studies at Michigan, according to the journal Behaviour and Social Issues.
"I have also seen hundreds of kids and their parents in a lab setting and never once witnessed any of this behaviour," Stansbury added, according to a Michigan statement.
Stanbury wanted to get a realistic gauge of how often parents use what she calls positive and negative touch in non-compliance episodes with their children, in a real-world natural setting, outside the lab.
A group of university student researchers anonymously observed 106 discipline interactions between caregivers and children aged three to five in public places and recorded the results.
Stansbury said another surprising finding was that male caregivers touched the children more during discipline settings than female caregivers - and the majority of the time it was in a positive manner.
Positive touch included hugging, tickling and patting. She said this positive approach contradicts the age-old stereotype of the father as the parent who lays down the law.
Ultimately, positive touch caused the children to comply more often, more quickly and with less fussing than negative touch, or physical punishment, Stansbury said. When negative touch was used, even when children complied, they often pouted or sulked afterward, she said.