Child rearing is affected by the cultures view of abuse to a child. However, there is much gray area and disagreement about what is defined as abuse in different cultures and countries.
What about spanking?
In trying to discipline children many parents use spanking or other corporal punishment to discipline their children and show then what is okay and not okay to do. However, views on corporal punishment have much variation. Is it abuse?
In Sweden (as well as other European countries) spanking and all corporal punishment is illegal, as it is considered abusive. The US has hotly debated the legalities of spanking in recent years in Massachusetts and California. American’s are generally not in support of the state intervening with a parent’s choice to spank their child, as they don’t see it as abuse.
The culture/perspective of the parents affects the outcome of corporal punishment on the child. One study in the US showed that the long term effects of corporal punishment are different in African American families than in white middle class families. The difference was because the white middle class families felt they were not supposed to spank their children, so if they did, it was because they were emotionally frustrated. On the other hand, in African American families, corporal punishment is a consequence without such emotional charge; therefore the children do not get nearly as much harm from being spanked in African American families. In fact, it was an affected means of discipline (although not as much as time outs, etc) (Berk, Laura). This study shows that the long term effects of “abuse” or “punishment” depend on the meaning of those giving it.
What about female circumcision? (Female Genital Mutilation -aka FGM)
The women in the following link think that it is helpful to their daughters to have their clitorises cut off. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsqEyGdLh8I&feature=related
The mothers say it is normal, and that it helps the girl be calm and have self-restraint. However, in western societies, FGM is usually considered abusive to a young girl.
If cutting off a piece of girls’ genitals is considered traumatic and abusive…
What about circumcision of baby boys? They have no ability to give consent and are also strapped down while a piece of their genitals is cut off. In the US most males are circumcised, and the same rational is used: that it is normal and the boy would not like it if he were not circumcised. In Australia and Europe, circumcision is not done routinely (but for religious and particular health reasons), and movements banning it age gaining momentum.
Is it okay for any culture to decide what abuse to a child is? What if that includes female genital mutilation or striking a child?
How much difference does the culture’s meaning of the “abuse” change the experience of those being “abused”? (Think of the study cited above.) Is circumcision or FGM less harmful if the culture has positive connotations for it?
Do you think spanking is abuse? Why or why not?
Do you think male or female circumcision is abuse? Why or why not?
This post was presented by: Annika Ecklund, Carolyn Kaufman, Sally Pitcher, Stephanie Vassillion, Karl Daruwala, Elissa May
Berk, Laura. (2004/7) Development through the Lifespan. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Fourth Edition
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