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Child welfare, discipline


Objectives: To study the effect that a child’s relationship to the head of the household, age and/or orphan status has on the severity of discipline received by the child in the home. We also looked at the effects of parental education level, parental beliefs in the necessity of physical punishment and parental attitudes regarding domestic violence on these outcomes.

Data & Methods: Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MISC4), UNICEF, 2010, for Ghana (n=54,453), Iraq (n=239,218), Vietnam (n=45,091), Costa Rica (n=22,558) and Ukraine (n=34,889).

Three latent variables were created to determine discipline severity: mild, medium, and severe. Discipline was considered mild if the adult a) took privileges or a well-liked object from the child, b) explained why the child’s behavior was wrong, or c) distracted the child by giving her something else to do. Discipline was considered medium if the adult a) shook the child, b) shouted at the child, or c) spanked the child on the bottom. Finally, discipline was considered severe if the child was a) struck with an object, b) called a degrading name, c) hit or slapped on the face, head or ears, d) hit or slapped on the limbs, or e) beat up or hit repeatedly as hard as possible. Discipline was scored as 0=no discipline, 1=mild discipline, 2=moderate discipline, and 3=severe discipline.

Relatedness was measured by whether the child was the offspring of the head of the household, a relative of the head of household (such as a grandchild, or niece/nephew), or a non-relative. Orphan status was measured as being either a non-orphan or an orphan. UNICEF defines an orphan as a child who has one or both parents deceased. Children in the study ranged in age from 2-14 years old. The authors controlled for caregivers’ attitudes towards corporal punishment for children, domestic violence towards women and the education level of both men and women.

Results: In Ukraine (p

However, our study found that the most significant predictors of child discipline are: parent’s beliefs that children require physical punishment to be brought up correctly (p

Conclusions: Children in kin-care living arrangements, and some orphans can be at higher risk for severe discipline. This is important information for those involved in child social welfare worldwide.

Maltreatment of older children is under-reported and most research in this area is more than 20 years old.

Child welfare is significantly improved when parents are educated. This also includes education about corporal punishment for children and domestic violence towards women.


The Annual Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Research Conference showcases some of the best student research from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. The mentored learning program encourages undergraduate students to participate in hands-on and practical research under the direction of a faculty member. Students create these posters as an aide in presenting the results of their research to the public, faculty, and their peers.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Social Work

University Standing at Time of Publication

Graduate Student


Social Work 604

The Effects of Relatedness, Age and Orphan Status on Child Discipline