Community perceptions of child displine and its contribitions to child abuse
A community based cross-sectional study was carried out in a peri-urban slum of Nairobi called Kibera, between August 1997 and November 1997 using both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection. The study involved direct interview of parents, focus group discussions and key person interviews. In the household survey, parents of children 18 years and below were interviewed using a semi structured questionnaire. Key informants were selected from school teachers, chiefs, child counsellors and health care personnel working within the study area. A total of 538 persons were interviewed in the household survey from three ethnic groups: Luo, Luhya and Nubi. Information obtained was subjected to statistical analysis. The objective was to determine the community perceptions of child discipline and its contribution to child abuse. The specific objectives included to determine: the perception of parents regarding child discipline; the modes of discipline used and the circumstances in which they are administered; what parents and community members perceive as excessive discipline i.e. child abuse and the perception of key informants regarding child discipline and c1i.ildabuse. The results obtained were as follows: regarding perceived meanmg of child discipline, 376 out of 538 (70%) understood this to mean showing love and praising child for good deeds but punishing child for wrong-doing. One hundred and eight (20%) of the study population understood discipline to mean beating of a child whenever he does wrong; ninety (16.7%) believed children should be punished for major wrong doing while 18 (3.3%) were of the opinion that children should be left on their own. The purpose of discipline according to the study population was to correct and train a child to have good behaviour with the hope that they grow into responsible adults 395 (73%); to punish a child and make him suffer to the maximum 46 (8.6%) and to make sure the child knows who is in charge 16 (3%). The most commonly used techniques of disciplining children were: caning 484 (90%), verbal reprimand 448 (83%), pinching 215 (40%), slapping 179 (33%) and denying food 104 (19%). Sixty seven (12%) of the study population confessed having used obviously abusive methods of disciplining which included: 'punching', kicking, biting, beating with nearest object, burning, cutting with razor and chasing child away from home. Two hundred and ninety six (55%) of the study population reported that their neighbours used obvious abusive disciplinary measures. Burning as a disciplinary measure was mainly used on a child who had stolen. Denial of food was commonly used on children who refused to do what was required of them. Amount and type of punishment given in most cases depended on seriousness of offence 336 (62%), frequency of offence 151 (28%), age of child 115 (21 %), sex of child 28 (5%) mood of the parent 24 (4%) and time of the day 10 (1.9%). What the study population identified as excessive discipline or child abuse included any disciplinary methods used which causes: fainting 348 (64%), death 345 (63%), bleeding 300 (55%), fractures 227 (42%), swelling 196 (36%), child running away from home 192 (35%) and bruising 179 (33%). Both parents, community and key informants clearly identified forms of discipline that could be considered abusive. The conclusions were: 1. Community perception of child discipline is inappropriate in about 20% of the study population who understood child discipline to mean beating a child whenever he/she does wrong. 2. The commonest mode of discipline used was canmg. Prevalence of abusive forms of discipline in the study community was high: 12.6% (self-reported) and 55% (reported by neighbours). 3. Both parents and key community informants were clearly able to identify forms of discipline that could be considered abusive. The recommendations made were that appropriate intervention should be made using the results of this study as a basis: to include health education for parents/guardians; a similar study on children as the recipients of discipline and other similar studies in both urban and rural set ups should be done to find out community perceptions of discipline.