Purpose: This study investigated how often mothers of children with Asperger Syndrome and nonverbal learning disorders reported using either psychological aggression (shouting, cursing, name calling) or corporal punishment (spanking, hitting) when disciplining their children, and also examined the correlates of these methods of discipline.
Design and Methods: A descriptive study of 41l mothers with children between ages 4 and 17 years. Mothers were recruited by placing an invitation on two national Web sites; one for parents of children with Asperger syndrome and one for parents of children with nonverbal learning disabilities. An anonymous, mailed survey was used and a 70% response rate was obtained. The Conflict Tactics Scale-Child Form was used to measure psychological aggression and corporal punishment. Univariate analyses were used to describe the child and maternal characteristics and maternal rates of discipline. The correlates of maternal discipline were measured using bivariate analyses.
Results: The overall reported use of any corporal punishment (slaps on the hand, arm, and leg; hitting on the buttocks with a belt or brush; spanking on the buttocks with a hand; pinching and shaking) during the past year was 58%. The yearly use of any psychological aggression (screaming and yelling, cursing, threatening to hit or spank, threatening to kick out or send away, calling the child “dumb” or “lazy”) was 95%. Spanking declined with increasing age of the child and the mother. Mothers who used psychological aggression were more likely to use corporal punishment with their child.
Clinical Implications: Informed nurses working with these populations can use the results of this study to help address the stresses felt by these mothers, and to teach alternative strategies of coping to mothers who are in danger of using psychological aggression and corporal punishment.
Liza Little is an Assistant Professor of Nursing, University of New Hampshire, Durham.
She can be reached c/o Department of Nursing, 259 Hewitt Hall, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).