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Background: Disciplining is a major component of parenting. Studying the perception on disciplining children provides information to reduce harmful practices in communities. The aim of this study was to develop an instrument and assess maternal perception towards the physical and psychological disciplinary practices in a rural community of Sri Lanka.
Methods and Material: Vignettes based interviewer administered questionnaire incorporating a visual analog scale was developed to capture the perceptions. Sixty seven mothers of children aged 11-16 years participated. Mothers were asked to categorize the vignettes into three groups and to rate the perception on three domains; severity, approval and harm. Mean scores and standard deviation was calculated for each disciplinary act. Then weighted mean scores were calculated for total physical and psychological disciplinary acts in three domains. Pearson correlation co efficient was calculated and significance of the correlation was tested between the perception of severity and approval, perception of severity and harm, perception of harm and approval for each of the disciplinary acts.
Results: The mean scores for perception of severity for eight individual physical disciplinary acts varied from 4.57 to 7.93 and for harm from 3.24 to 7.72. For perception of approval it varied from 2.91 to 7.34. The mean scores for perception on severity of psychological disciplinary acts varied from 4.29 to 7.52 and for harm from 4.43 to 7.39. For approval of the act it was from 3.06 to 5.43. Negative correlation was observed for the perception of approval with perception of severity and harm. Positive correlation was seen between the perception of severity and harm.
Conclusion: The study demonstrates that mothers in this community favour physical disciplinary practices compared to the psychological disciplinary practices. Even though the perceived culpability of the child is low in the psychological disciplinary acts they perceive those acts as comparatively severe, harmful and less approved.
Maternal perception, Disciplinary practices, Child Maltreatment, Vignette