Understand Essay, Research Paper
STUDY OF FAMILY INTERACTION LEAD TO NEW UNDERSTANDING OF ABUSIVE PARENTSChild Abuse Researchers at the University of Toronto have taken important stepstoward producing a profile of an abusive parent. Prof. Gary Walters anddoctoral student Lynn Oldershaw of the Department of Psychology havedeveloped a system to characterize parents who physically abuse theirchildren. This could ultimately allow social service professionals toidentify parents in child abuse. Over the last five years, Walters and Oldershaw, in collaboration withDarlene Hall of the West End Creche, have examined over 100 mothers andtheir three to six-year-old children who have been physically abused. Inthe laboratory, the mother and child spend 30 minutes in structuredactivities such as playing, eating and cleaning-up. The family interactionis video-taped and later analyzed. The researchers have developed a system which allows them to record theeffectiveness of parenting skills. They are particularly interested indisciplinary strategies because abuse most commonly occurs when the parentwants the child to comply. “It’s a question of trying to determine whichtype of parent produces which type of child or which type of child elicitswhich type of parental behaviour,” explains Oldershaw. As a result of their work, Walters and Oldershaw have identifieddistinct categories of abusive parents and their children. ‘Harsh/intrusive’ mothers are excessively harsh and constantly badger theirchild to behave. Despite the fact that these mothers humiliate anddisapprove of their child, there are times when they hug, kiss or speak to
them warmly. This type of mothering produces an aggressive, disobedientchild. A ‘covert/hostile’ mother shows no positive feelings towards her child. She makes blatant attacks on the child’s self-worth and denies himaffection or attention. For his part, the child tries to engage hismother’s attention and win her approval. An ‘emotionally detached’ mother has very little involvement with herchild. She appears depressed and uninterested in the child’s activities. The child of this type of mother displays no characteristics which set himapart from other children. In order to put together a parenting profile, the two researchersexamine the mother/child interaction and their perception and feelings. Forinstance, Walters and Oldershaw take into account the mother’s sense ofherself as a parent and her impression of her child. The researchers alsotry to determine the child’s perception of himself or herself and of theparent. Abusive parents are often believed to have inadequate parentingskills and are referred to programs to improve these skills. These programsare particularly appropriate for parents who, themselves, were raised byabusive parents and as a result are ignorant of any other behavior towardher child. One of the goals of the psychologists is to provide information totherapists which will help tailor therapy to the individual needs of theabusive parents. “Recidivism rates for abusive care-givers are high,” saysWalters. “To a large extent, abusive parents which require a variety oftreatment. ” Their research is funded by the Social Sciences and HumanitiesResearch Council.