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Domestic CP - September 2004
Straits Times, Singapore, 17 September 2004
Most parents here don't cane kids, shows study
Survey of 230 parents reveals that 68 per cent of them disciplined their children through reasoning alone
By Lee Hui Chieh
PARENTS here may not be as quick to use the cane as many believe.
Sparing the rod did not spoil the child. Instead, researchers found that these children were less likely to suffer from emotional and behavioural problems, especially delinquent and aggressive behaviour, compared with those who had been disciplined through caning alone.
About one in 10 of the parents used only caning, while one in five used a combination of both methods.
A team of six researchers from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) surveyed these parents, aged between 23 and 52, who had gone to seek medical attention for their children, aged between four and 12.
In studies done in the West, Asian parents have been frequently described as authoritarian and so are thought to favour physical punishment.
But there have been few studies on this in Asia and the researchers wanted to find out if this was indeed true and how different disciplinary practices affected a child's behaviour.
The results of this study debunks the myth of the Singaporean parent as being authoritarian, said one of the researchers, Ms Lee Yi Ping, a research assistant at the institute's department of child and adolescent psychiatry.
Based on the findings, the research team suggests that parents should adjust their disciplinary methods according to the type of problems displayed by the child.
For example, for a child with aggressive behaviour, parents might not want to resort to caning but look at other methods such as reasoning, said another researcher on the team, Dr Daniel Fung, deputy chief of the IMH's department of child and adolescent psychiatry.
The team stressed that this was a preliminary study and more research would be needed to determine which methods might be more suitable for certain children.
Agreeing with the study, Mr Alfred Tan, executive director of the Singapore Children's Society, said: 'Generally, we advise parents to use caning only as a last resort. Overdoing it may cause distress to the child.
'Reasoning, on the other hand, will build bonding and improve understanding between the child and parents.'
He added that there were other more effective disciplinary methods, such as withdrawing privileges from children if they misbehaved.
This is one of 450 research papers that will be presented at the National Healthcare Group Scientific Congress, which will be held on Oct 9 and 10 at Raffles City Convention Centre.
About 3,500 health-care professionals are expected to attend the annual scientific meeting, now in its third year.
Copyright @ 2004 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.
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