Corporal punishment still preferred in households
Although the Government favours the prohibition of corporal punishment for children, two of its main oversight agencies are reporting that it has remained the preferred method of punishment within households.
At the same time, the agencies pointed out that despite the popularity of beating children, all methods of corporal punishment showed a decrease or remain unchanged in 2018 at the regional level, compared with the figures for 2017.
According to the Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions (JSLC), up to 2018 beating was the most used method of punishment across regions, age groups and quintiles, for both boys and girls.
The JSLC report, a combined effort between the Planning Institute of Jamaica and Statistical Institute of Jamaica, showed that children in the Greater Kingston Metropolitan Area (GKMA) — Kingston, urban St Andrew, Spanish Town, and Portmore — were more likely to “be exposed to corporal or psychologically aggressive methods of punishment than children in the rural areas”.
The report also noted that “a larger proportion of children witnessed violence taking place within the community, than those who witnessed violent activity in the home”.
However, it went on to say that, although the proportions were relatively small — eight per cent of children witnessing violence in their communities, compared to 3.6 witnessing violence at home — the individual and societal impact of witnessing the violence should not be underestimated, “given the known effects of positive and negative experiences on socio-emotional and cognitive development”.
Slapping, talking about wrong action and quarrelling/shouting were found to be the top three methods of discipline used with children up to age five. The third most frequently used method with 6-8 year olds was reasoning. The use of slapping was more prevalent — almost 80 per cent — for children 3-5 years old.
Among non-corporal methods of punishment, ignoring was the least reported as a means of discipline for all age groups.
Quarrelling and shouting were used with a greater number of children — 52 per cent — in older age categories, particularly children in the 6-8 age cohort.
Most methods were used with similar proportions of boys and girls. The largest difference was in terms of beating with an implement, which was measured at 23 per cent of boys and 13.7 per cent of girls. Quarrelling/shouting affected 45 per cent boys and 41 per cent girls. Beating with an implement had the largest percentage point difference, with a difference of 9.2 per cent, with boys more likely to be disciplined in this manner.
With the exception of beating with an implement, the GKMA had the highest proportions of children who were disciplined using corporal and psychologically aggressive methods of punishment. The two most popular disciplinary forms overall — slapping and talking about the wrong — were also found to be the case in rural areas.
Slapping was the most common form of discipline in all regions, with the proportion of children disciplined in this manner reported at 64.5 per cent in rural areas, 66.3 per cent in other urban areas, and 73.8 per cent in the GKMA.
Addressing Parliament last week Tuesday on violence in the society, Prime Minister Andrew Holness reiterated his opposition to corporal punishment and other forms of violence against children.
“For many years we have been ambivalent, both as a Parliament and as a people, about violence. The ultimate measure of violence is a loss of lives,” he told his colleagues in the House of Representatives.
“If we were firm in our stance, as a Parliament, as a Government, and as a people, generally, against all forms of violence, then the ultimate escalation would not arise. When will we agree that when we beat our children, we are teaching them that the only way to resolve an issue is through violence?” the prime minister said.
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